The man who lent Anita Roddick pounds 4,000 to help found the Body Shop 20 years ago, sold a 3.5 per cent stake in the company yesterday, netting pounds 12m.
Ian McGlinn, a former garage owner, sold 6.7 million shares priced at 180p to the Aeon Group, one of Japan's largest retailers. Aeon is also the Body Shop's head franchise operator in Japan where it has 70 stores.
Mr McGlinn's sale will still leave him with a 23.8 per cent stake in Body Shop, worth pounds 82m. The company said Mr McGlinn had told them he has "no current intention of making any further reductions in his shareholding".
Body Shop said it did not know why Mr McGlinn had decided to sell the shares. However, pounds 12m is enough to buy more peppermint foot lotion and moisturising shaving gel than any man could ever need.
Though Mr McGlinn has been gradually reducing his stake in the company, he has been a loyal supporter. He first encountered Anita Roddick when he was running a garage in Littlehamptonn and he used to eat in the Roddicks' restaurant. When the young Roddick was turned down by the bank for a loan, Mr McGlinn stepped in with a loan in return for a 50 per cent stake.
The business went on to become one of Britain's best-known companies with stores across the world. While Ms Roddick is one of Britain's most high-profile businesswomen, Mr McGlinn has maintained a low profile.
Body Shop said its new Japanese investor had not disclosed its reasons for buying the shares. "They know our business quite well. We view it as a positive move."
Body Shop's shares have been under a cloud because of difficult trading in America. Its trading statement at its annual meeting last week showed like-for-like sales in America still falling and flat in the UK.
Gordon and Anita Roddick had hatched a plan to take Body Shop private but later abandoned the move when new of their intentions leaked last year. It has since tried to woo the City with a more progressive dividend policy.