/ 24 March 2006

Roddick nets £130m from Body Shop sale

Anita Roddick, the campaigning businesswoman behind The Body Shop, made £130million on March 17 when she agreed to sell the high-street cosmetics chain to French beauty group L’Oreal.

The sale was a surprising turn for Roddick, who founded The Body Shop from a single store in Brighton on the English south coast in 1976 and built a global brand by banging the drum for a more ethical approach to business, including using recycled packaging and natural ingredients not tested on animals. She has often railed against the mores of big corporations and what she sees as the frustrating demands of the beauty industry on women.

A couple of years ago, she attacked L’Oreal for employing only ‘sexy” women on its sales counters. But any differences appear to have been ironed out. ‘Let me tell you how the French seduce you,” she told a press conference. ‘They are the most bloody seductive people on earth. They are charming, they are well mannered and they praise and flatter you.”

The company is being sold to L’Oreal for £652million. She praised the French business for wanting to be an ‘advocate and supporter of our values” and said it would be business as usual at The Body Shop.

‘The campaigning, the being maverick, changing the rules of business — it’s all there, protected,” she said. ‘And it’s not going to change. That’s part of our DNA. But having L’Oreal come in and say we like you, we like your ethics, we want to be part of you, we want you to teach us things. So I don’t see it as selling out.”

The sale immediately drew fire. L’Oreal, which makes Maybelline mascara, Lancôme skin cream and Armani and Ralph Lauren fragrances, claims to have stopped testing finished products on animals since 1989, but activists argue that ingredients are still not monitored.

Ruth Rosselson, at Ethical Consumer magazine, said: ‘I will certainly not be shopping at The Body Shop again. L’Oreal has yet to show its commitment to any ethical issues at all.” Other animal protection groups called for a boycott.

Roddick stepped back from the day-to-day running of The Body Shop in 2002, but she remains arguably Britain’s most famous businesswoman. She will keep her consultancy at The Body Shop and work 50 days a year at L’Oreal, particularly on the issue of fair trade with the developing world. The Body Shop will continue to be run out of Britain and will retain its independence.

L’Oreal is paying 300p a share for The Body Shop, which has 2 000 stores in 54 countries. Last year it made £27million on sales of £419million. —