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Burt Shavitz, reclusive co-founder of Burt's Bees, dead at 80

The reclusive beekeeper who co-founded Burt's Bees, and whose face and wild beard appeared on labels for the natural cosmetics, died on Sunday. Burt Shavitz was 80.

Chance encounter led to cosmetics business that sold for $925M

Shavitz lived out his days on a plot of land in rural Maine he received as part of a business settlement. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

The reclusive beekeeper who co-founded Burt's Bees, and whose face and wild beard appeared on labels for the natural cosmetics, died on Sunday. Burt Shavitz was 80.

A spokeswoman for Burt's Bees said in an emailed statement Shavtiz died of respiratory complications in Bangor, Maine, surrounded by family and friends.

Shavitz was a hippie making a living by selling honey when his life was altered by a chance encounter with a hitchhiking Roxanne Quimby. She was a single mother and a back-to-the-lander who impressed Shavitz with her ingenuity and self-sufficiency.

In the 1980s, she began making products from his beeswax, and they became partners.

The business partnership ended after Quimby moved the company to North Carolina in 1994. The company continued to expand, but Shavitz moved back to Maine. He has said he was forced out after having an affair with an employee. In 2007, Clorox purchased Burt's Bees for $925 million.

"Burt was an enigma; my mentor and my muse. I am deeply saddened," Quimby told The Associated Press in an email.

'A complex man'

Shavitz received an undisclosed settlement — and 37 acres in a remote corner of Maine. He also continued to make appearances on behalf of the company.

"What I have in this situation is no regret," he said last year while sitting in a rocking chair in his home in Parkman. "The bottom line is she's got her world and I've got mine, and we let it go at that."

Though he is known for being a character from the backwoods of Maine, Shavitz grew up around New York, served in the Army in Germany and shot photos for Time-Life before leaving the city.

He tried leaving Maine once before, spending a winter on a warm island, but was drawn back to the state. He was also the subject of a documentary, "Burt's Buzz."

"Burt was a complex man who sought a simple life in pace with the seasons of nature on his land," the company said in a statement. "If there is one thing we will remember from Burt's life, in our fast-paced, high-tech culture, it's to never lose sight of our relationship with nature."

In recent years, Shavitz lived in a cluttered house with no running water. A converted turkey coop that used to be his home remained on his property. He liked passing the time by watching wildlife.

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