Green campaigner and Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick was yesterday in line for a multi-million pound windfall after agreeing to sell the cosmetics chain to L'Oreal.
Dame Anita and her husband, Gordon Roddick, will bank around #117.4 million from their 18 per cent stake after agreeing to back the board's decision to sell Body Shop to the French firm for #652.3 million.
It marks the end of an era for Body Shop and Dame Anita, who borrowed #3,000 from friend Iain McGlinn to set up the first store in Brighton 30 years ago.
But the 63-year-old - arguably the UK's highest profile businesswoman - denied she was selling-out after years of campaigning about issues such as fair trade, sustainable development and animal testing.
Dame Anita, who will remain in her current role as a consultant, insisted Body Shop's ethics would not change.
"I don't see it as selling out," she said. "For both Gordon and I, this is without doubt the best 30th anniversary gift the Body Shop could have received.
"L'Oreal has displayed visionary leadership in wanting to be an authentic advocate and supporter of our values."
Body Shop, which has stores throughout the West Midlands, accepted an offer of 300p a share from L'Oreal - a large premium on its Thursday closing price of 268p. Shares yesterday surged ten per cent.
"Body Shop isn't the wacky ethical business it once was and it has been going upmarket in recent years, selling more expensive 'masstige' (mass prestige) skincare and so on, so the approach from L'Oreal wasn't that big a surprise," analyst Nick Bubb of brokers Evolution said.
Mr McGlinn could make around #137 million from his 21 per cent stake in the company, while the Roddicks hold another two per cent in charitable trusts.
The Body Shop board yesterday urged other shareholders to back the sale.
L'Oreal, which makes Ambre Solaire suncream and Lancome lipsticks, said the Body Shop brand would be retained and the company would continue to be based in and run independently from the its Littlehampton headquarters in West Sussex.
The French firm said Body Shop would enhance its business because of its "sizeable and complementary brand" across 54 countries, which delivered revenues of #419 million last year from its 2,085 shops, 304 of which are in the UK.
It also said the deal would give it increased presence in the "masstige" sector - mass market combined with prestige - which Body Shop has worked hard to exploit over the last four years.
In a statement to the stock market, the two companies yesterday said the proposed takeover depended on regulatory clearance.
L'Oreal chief executive Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, who was born in Wallasey, Merseyside, said: "We have always had great respect for the Body Shop's success and for its strong identity and values created by its outstanding founder, Dame Anita Roddick.
"A partnership between our companies makes perfect sense. Combining L'Oreal's expertise and knowledge of international markets with the Body Shop's distinct culture and values will benefit both companies."
The Roddicks started Body Shop in 1976 to help support their two young daughters, Justine and Samantha. The company represented an ethical alternative to the traditional approach to cosmetics.