Dame Anita Roddick Founder of Body Shop to Give Away Fortune

Submitted by Share Trading on 14 December, 2005 - 00:07

Dame Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop and one of Britain's best-known businesswomen, has decided to turn her back on the world of commerce and give away her £51 million ($120 million) fortune.

Dame Anita and her husband, Gordon, founded the 300-strong chain of shops in 1976. Now the pair are its biggest shareholders, holding 18 per cent of the shares, worth £100 million. However, she said she wanted to cash in her 20 million shares and give the proceeds away.

She said: "I am going to start giving it away. I hope that before I die there will be a financial foundation. All my wealth is in the shares. My intention is to give my money away.

"I don't want to die rich. Money does not mean anything to me. The worst thing is greed - the accumulation of money. I don't know why people who are extraordinarily wealthy are not more generous."

Her sell-off has already begun. In February the Roddicks sold 4 million Body Shop shares, raising £7.4 million. A large slug went to charity, £1 million to help Amnesty International pay for the completion of its £12 million human rights action centre in London, and a further £500,000 to back some of Greenpeace's charitable works.

Since she stood down from a full-time role in 2002, the retail chain's fortunes have blossomed. The company was better off without her in a hands-on role, she admitted. "I'm getting more radical. If I was running the Body Shop I would have been a problem because of our stance against the Iraqi war. It would have caused mayhem in the States."

The new management team "is much better because they have terrific relations with the City", she said. The new products are "a million times better", noting that "20 of the best-selling products are the old ones".

One of Dame Anita's regrets is floating the Body Shop on the London stockmarket. "The mistake was going public. You are always beholden to one point of view - the financial bottom line." After losing $800,000 investing in two ventures in North America - a hemp farm and a free newspaper business - she has decided to turn her back on business for good.

"Business does not interest me any more," she said. "I was a one-song person. What saved me was that I never went to business school and I don't know who Milton Friedman is. I was a teacher and researcher, and I knew how to tell a story."

Dame Anita is now a Body Shop consultant for 80 days a year.

Another big regret, she said, was not getting rivals to trade directly with the developing world. "Where I failed miserably was not persuading other companies like Avon and Procter & Gamble to do it. Some 15,000 families in places like Peru and Brazil are supported by the Body Shop."

However, she added: "We are not allowed into mainland China. They have banned us. They said that you have to test your products on animals."

A Body Shop spokesman added: "We are currently in discussion with the Chinese authorities to ascertain whether we can register our products either on the basis of our sound record of consumer safety around the world or through alternative non-animal tests."

It would be nice to give

It would be nice to give away to those in need. my husband and I work long hours and don't seem to find time to spend with our kids. we are struggling to pay a mortgage and other debts. I think the average Australian will never become rich. as they say the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. well thats how we feel. i have been sick for sometime with bladder cancer but have to keep going to work so we don't go under. well good on you dame. I love people like you.