Burt Shavitz dies at age 80

Man be­hind nat­u­ral cos­met­ics maker Burt’s Bees


The reclu­sive bee­keeper who co- founded Burt’s Bees, and whose face and wild beard ap­peared on la­bels for the nat­u­ral cos­met­ics, died on Sun­day. Burt Shavitz was 80.

A spokes­woman for Burt's Bees said in an emailed state­ment Shav­tiz died of res­pi­ra­tory com­pli­ca­tions in Ban­gor, Maine, sur­rounded by fam­ily and friends.

Shavitz was a hip­pie mak­ing a liv­ing by selling honey when his life was al­tered by a chance en­counter with a hitch­hik­ing Rox­anne Quimby. She was a sin­gle mother and a back- tothe- lan­der who im­pressed Shavitz with her in­ge­nu­ity and self- suf­fi­ciency.

In the 1980s she be­gan mak­ing prod­ucts from his beeswax, and they be­came part­ners.

The busi­ness part­ner­ship ended af­ter Quimby moved the com­pany to North Carolina in 1994. The com­pany con­tin­ued to ex­pand, but Shavitz moved back to Maine. He has said he was forced out af­ter hav­ing an af­fair with an em­ployee. In 2007, Clorox pur­chased Burt’s Bees for $ 925 mil­lion.

“Burt was an enigma; my men­tor and my muse. I am deeply sad­dened,” Quimby told The As­so­ci­ated Press in an email.

Shavitz re­ceived an undis­closed set­tle­ment - and 37 acres in re­mote cor­ner of Maine. He also con­tin­ued to make ap­pear­ances on be­half of the com­pany.

“What I have in this sit­u­a­tion is no re­gret,” he said last year while sit­ting in a rock­ing chair in his home in Park­man. “The bot­tom line is she’s got her world and I've got mine, and we let it go at that.”

Though he is known for be­ing a char­ac­ter from the back­woods of Maine, Shavitz grew up around New York, served in the Army in Ger­many and shot photos for Time-Life be­fore leav­ing the city.

He tried leav­ing Maine once be­fore, spend­ing a win­ter on a warm is­land, but was drawn back to the state. He was also the sub­ject of a doc­u­men­tary, “Burt’s Buzz.”

“Burt was a com­plex man who sought a sim­ple life in pace with the sea­sons of na­ture on his land,” the com­pany said in a state­ment. “If there is one thing we will re­mem­ber from Burt's life, in our fast­paced, high-tech cul­ture, it's to never lose sight of our re­la­tion­ship with na­ture.”

In re­cent years, Shavitz lived in a clut­tered house with no run­ning wa­ter. A con­verted tur­key coop that used to be his home re­mained on his prop­erty. He liked pass­ing the time by watch­ing wildlife.


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