Burt’s Bees Sells Out Big

The Clorox Company, a name that for most people means "chemical bleach," last October bought privately owned Burt’s Bees for $925 million in cash, a whopping endorsement of the company’s attractive positioning, and of the promise of sustainable goods across the personal-care industry. Clorox has been eyeing the natural-care market covetously, since sales rose from $2 to $6.1 billion between 2002 and 2006, according to industry researcher Package Facts. Those sales continue to grow at nine percent annually. Still, it’s eye-opening for the name behind toxic bleach products to back a company like Burt’s whose motto is "The Greater Good," reflecting its socially responsible outlook. Every product contains a "natural bar," telling customers the exact percentage of natural products it contains (even if it’s 99.68 percent).

Quirky and committed, Burt’s Bees (see "Tools for Green Living," July/August 2007) has gone from a small-time beeswax candle business, launched by Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz, to a more than $250 million-per-year top-grossing manufacturer of natural-care products (lip care, hair care, foot care, baby care, pregnant mother care). A few years ago, Quimby used company profits to purchase some 185,000 acres of land in timber-rich Maine with the support of The Nature Conservancy. To finance that acquisition, she sold an 80 percent stake of Burt’s Bees to New York private equity firm AEA Investors for $180 million. With this latest sale to Clorox, Quimby will no longer have a financial stake or a formal role with the company.