Anita and Gordon Roddick signalled the end of an era yesterday when they announced they were stepping back from the day-to-day management of Body Shop International, the ethical cosmetics retailer they founded nearly 26 years ago.
The news came as Body Shop said it was ending talks that could have led to a takeover and would continue instead as an independent public company. The business also said Patrick Gournay was leaving as chief executive with a pay-off expected to be about £500,000.
The Roddicks are giving up their roles as co-chairmen of Body Shop with immediate effect. They will both stay on as non-executive directors while Anita will also have a two-year consultancy agreement with the business.
The decision marks yet another step in the Roddicks' gradual withdrawal from the business Anita founded in 1976 with a £4,000 bank loan. Mr Roddick said: "We've been here 26 years and I'm 60 years old in a couple of weeks. Neither Anita, myself or Ian McGlinn (a major shareholder who backed the business right at the beginning) were interested in seeing the business sold off cheaply into the hands of people perhaps whose philosophy wasn't quite aligned with our own."
He added: "The end of one era always heralds the beginning of another. I've never spent my life looking in the rear-view mirror. I like to look forward."
Asked what he planned to do in the future, Mr Roddick said: "To be honest I'm not quite sure. I will be working on our foundation project and The Big Issue (the newspaper for the homeless which was backed by the Roddicks)."
He said Anita was "excited" about the future and would be working on more books and other consultancy work. Later she said she was looking forward to life as a non-executive. "Being now a non-exec is going to be much more fun for me because you can be much more of a tyrant," she said. Ms Roddick added that she will help research new products, and had just returned from a trip to Ghana, where she worked with shea butter farmers.
Ms Roddick caused controversy last summer when she said Body Shop had lost its soul and become a "dysfunctional coffin."
Taking over as executive chairman is Adrian Bellamy, currently a non-executive director who used to be the main Body Shop franchise holder in the US. Mr Bellamy will be paid £100,000 a year extra salary for his duties in addition to his £700,000 a year consultancy fee. The new chief executive is Peter Saunders, currently the chief executive of Body Shop in the US. The pair replace Mr Gournay, who was appointed chief executive four years ago.
Body Shop, which has 1,850 stores in 50 countries, has been linked with a series of takeovers in the past year. Takeover talks with the Mexican group Omnilife collapsed in June last year. Later the company said it had received a number of other approaches which may lead to an offer. These included trade and venture capital interests, however, yesterday Body Shop said the proposals had failed to "fairly reflect the inherent value" of the business.
Mr Bellamy had been linked with a deal but he yesterday denied he had ever been planning a management buyout.
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