“Burt Shavitz, our co-founder and namesake, has left for greener fields and wilder woods,” read a statement on the Burt’s Bees homepage. “We remember him as a bearded, free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers and his land. Above all, he taught us to never lose sight of our relationship with nature.”
Shavitz’s story is pretty amazing: He was a hippie beekeeper making money by selling honey until he met a hitchhiker named Roxanne Quimby. In the 1980s, Quimby started making products from Shavitz’s beeswax, which ultimately formed the foundation for Burt’s Bees. The company made $20,000 in its first year of operations and quickly expanded to making lip balm, soaps and other cosmetics.
In 1999, Quimby bought Shavitz out of the company for around $130,000. In 2007, Clorox got it for $925 million.
The 2013 documentary Burt’s Buzz focused on Shavitz’s life post-cosmetics empire — in particular, how things ended up with Quimby, who later reportedly gave him $4 million and 37 acres. Shavitz insisted he wasn’t upset.
“I’ve got everything I need,” he said in an interview with the New Yorker. “A nice piece of land with hawks and owls and incredible sunsets, and the good will of my neighbors.”