Buyout firms back off Body Shop

Following today’s resignation of Body Shop founders Anita and Gordon Roddick, the company said takeover talks with private equity firms had failed.

Anita and Gordon Roddick, founders and co-chairs of struggling alternative cosmetics retailer Body Shop, have resigned, 25 years after setting up the company. Today the company also announced that takeover talks with potential buyers have been terminated.

Body Shop had been negotiating a takeover with a number of parties including private equity firms. Paris-based PAI Management, which at one point was understood to be prepared to offer £250m for the business, and Texas Pacific of the US were involved in the talks. Permira and PPM Ventures had also been linked to a possible deal. Potential trade buyers talking to Body Shop included Grupo Omnilife of Mexico and Lush, the UK health and beauty products group, but none of these conversations bore any fruit.

According to people familiar with the situation, potential buyers failed to see eye-to-eye with the Roddicks on price. “Their expectations were seen as not very realistic”, commented a source. “It was hard to see why anyone should pay a premium for the business. Many saw it as a dog that had had its day. All you could do was buy the brand and try and reinvigorate it.”

This task will now fall to a new management team. Body Shop said today that chief executive Patrick Gournay had stepped down as well. Peter Saunders, who currently runs the US arm of the company, will take over. Adrian Bellamy will become executive chairman.

Body Shop shares fell 10 per cent to 88p in early London trading.