Burt of Burt's Bees: Co-Founder Kicked Me Out

Burt Shavitz stars in new documentary Burt's Buzz
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 5, 2014 10:13 AM CDT
Burt of Burt's Bees: Co-Founder Kicked Me Out
This photo taken on Friday, May 23, 2014, shows a wrapper from a package of Burt's Bees soap features an image of Burt Shavitz, the Burt behind Burt's Bees. Shavitz still lives in rural Maine after leaving the company that was later sold for millions by his former business partner, Roxanne Quimby.    (Robert F. Bukaty)

Conventional wisdom suggests the Burt behind Burt's Bees left the company after he became disillusioned with the corporate world in North Carolina and wanted to return to his solitary life in Maine. The reality, Burt Shavitz says, is that he was forced out by co-founder Roxanne Quimby after he had an affair with an employee. "In the long run, I got the land, and land is everything," the reclusive beekeeper, now the subject of a documentary, Burt's Buzz, told a filmmaker, sounding both bitter and ambivalent. "What I have in this situation is no regret," he said. "The bottom line is she's got her world and I've got mine, and we let it go at that."

Shavitz, 79, was a hippie making a living by selling honey when his life was altered by a chance encounter with a hitchhiking Quimby. She began making products from his beeswax, and they became partners. The partnership ended on a sour note after the business moved in 1994 to North Carolina, where it continued to expand before Shavitz was given the boot. "Roxanne Quimby wanted money and power, and I was just a pillar on the way to that success," he said. Quimby disagrees, but Shavitz noted "I had no desire to be an upward-mobile-rising yuppie with a trophy wife, a trophy house, a trophy car. I wasn't looking for any of those things. I already had what I wanted." Then he jokes, "No one has ever accused me of being ambitious." (Read more Burt's Bees stories.)

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