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Last Updated: Monday, 10 September 2007, 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK
Obituary: Dame Anita Roddick
Dame Anita Roddick
Anita Roddick was one of the UK's most successful entrepreneurs
Dame Anita Roddick, who has died aged 64, was one of the most celebrated yet controversial figures of her generation in business and public life.

She amassed a huge personal fortune from the growth and eventual sale of the Body Shop chain of beauty stores.

But it was for her championing of ethical business causes and her unconventional management style - which put her at odds with many in the business world - for which she will be best remembered.

Success did not come overnight to Anita Roddick.

First shop

She had tried her hand at running a picture-framing shop, a restaurant and a hotel before she came upon the idea of launching a store to sell a range of natural beauty products.

The store, opened in 1976 in the village near Brighton where Dame Anita, her husband Gordon and their two children lived, was initially a modest affair.

Dame Anita Roddick with the Princess of Wales in 1986
Dame Anita showing Princess Diana some of her products in 1986

It sold 15 products, some of which Roddick had come across during her frequent foreign travels and others reflecting her family background in Italy.

Her idea was for a store which was the direct opposite of the archetypal cosmetics parlour found in a typical department store of the time.

The business grew rapidly over the next 15 years to the point where, by the early 1990s, few high streets in the UK were without a branch of the Body Shop.

But for Dame Anita, the business was always about much more than selling skincare products and latterly, an exotic array of items ranging from bathing salts to body scrubs.

For her, business was just as much about communicating ideas and supporting political and ethical campaigns as racking up sales.

Political campaigns

She described stores as "billboards" and used her new-found public fame to successfully campaign for a range of causes, most famously for an end to the practice of animal testing.

She helped organise a petition which was signed by four million people and which eventually led to a change in the law.

The Body Shop's growth in the 1990s was in tune with the growth in awareness of environmental issues and consumer activism.

Body Shop branch
Body Shop grew from a single store to 2,000 outlets in 50 countries

But Dame Anita's willingness to venture beyond the boundaries of a typical businesswoman inevitably got her into hot water.

Her opposition to the Gulf War in the early 1990s led her into conflict with some of her fellow directors.

Her relationship with City bankers, crucial when the company listed its shares on the stock exchange in the early 1990s, was often fractious while many found it hard to reconcile a business trading on its ethical reputation with one making huge profits.

The business began to struggle in the early part of the current decade and Anita Roddick stood down from her position as head of the firm in 2003.

That same year she was made a Dame in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

The Body Shop's sale to cosmetics giant L'Oreal in 2006 for 652m disappointed many supporters who argued it was a betrayal of its founding values.

But the firm's founder maintained it was in keeping with its pioneering history and was the "best 30th birthday present" the business could have had.

After the sale, Dame Anita continued her championing of human rights, ethical trade and turned her attention to philanthropy claiming in an interview that "she didn't want to die rich".

She revealed earlier this year that she had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver.

She called for greater public awareness of and funding for the treatment of hepatitis, which she said she had contracted through a blood transfusion while giving birth to her youngest daughter in 1971.

A look back at Anita Roddick's achievements

Body Shop agrees L'Oreal takeover
17 Mar 06 |  Business

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