Burt's Bees Founder Burt Shavitz Dead at 80

Posted on July 6, 2015

Burt Shavitz 1935-2015

Burt Shavitz, the co-founder of Burt's Bees, has died at the age of 80. The company announced his passing on Twitter with a tribute to the bearded beekeeper whose image still adorns the company's products. Burt still lived in Maine with his beloved dogs, although he did do promotional tours for Burt's Bees all around the world.

Burt was a former veteran and well-respected photographer in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. His life changed when he picked up a hitchhiker named Roxanne Quimby. Burt and the single mother became a romantic and business couple. Burt had 26 beehives and sold honey. But Roxanne had bigger dreams. She began to make lip balm and other product from Burt's honey and sold them at local fairs and on the roadside. She made $20,000 the first year of operations and the company took off.

They moved the company to North Carolina, but their relationship went south. In a 2014 documentary called Burt's Buzz Burt says Roxanne dumped him because he had an affair with a young employee. She bought out his half of the company for a house worth $130,000. Roxanne sold the majority of the company to an investment firm. When Burt complained, she gave him $4 million. In 2007 the company was sold to Clorox for $970 million. She made $173 million on that deal. If Burt had kept his stock he would have had made just as much. It was a very expensive affair. Roxanne spends her time as an ardent conservationist. She has used her vast wealth to buy up huge blocks of forest land to keep free of commercial development.

In the documentary and in interviews Burt says that he was forced out because of the affair. But he also says that all that is in the past and that he is happy living in solitude. He says a good day is when no one comes to visit and he doesn't have to go anywhere. But Clorox still paid him to do personal appearances all over the world. He is very popular, especially abroad.

In a tribute posted on Twitter, Burt's Bees wrote, "It is with broken hearts that we must convey the saddest news: Burt Shavitz, our co-founder and namesake, has left for greener fields and wilder woods. 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." The company, which often posts updates on the threats to the bee population, noted that it is up to the company and Burt's fans to sustain Burt's ideals and spirit.

Although it is owned by mega corporation Clorox, Burt's Bees does not appear to have tinkered with the proprietary recipes much. We still love our Honey Lip Balm -- we have tubes of it stashed everywhere. Here is the trailer from the documentary which gives a glimpse into Burt's life:

Photo: Burt's Bees