Ending 77 years of family leadership of the Noxell Corp., George L. Bunting Jr. announced yesterday that he will retire from the company June 30.
Mr. Bunting's retirement -- which he says has been planned since Procter & Gamble Co. bought out Noxell in 1989 -- tightens P&G's control over the Hunt Valley-based cosmetic and fragrance company. Taking on most of Mr. Bunting's duties after his departure will be Noxell President John Saxton, a longtime Procter & Gamble executive.
"I feel good, because I think the legacy is going to continue on under different leadership. Change is good for everybody," Mr. Bunting said in an interview.
Mr. Bunting described as "wrenching" the 1989 decision to sell Noxell, which was founded in 1914 by his grandfather, the late George A. Bunting, a Baltimore-area pharmacist.
The company was later headed by his father, the late George L. Bunting.
But he said that the decision to bring family leadership of the company to an end was far less difficult.
"It is with mixed feelings that I make this announcement. My career with Noxell Corp. has been very rich and rewarding, filled with many special moments. However, at this point in my life, there are other projects that I'd like to pursue, and I think the time is right for a change," the outgoing chairman said.
After his retirement from Noxell, the 50-year-old Mr. Bunting said he will spend much of his time working with a small Hunt Valley-based investment firm he created primarily to manage his family's considerable fortune.
When Noxell was sold to Procter & Gamble in a stock swap valued at $1.4 billion in 1989, Mr. Bunting owned 20 percent of Noxell.
"He's rumored to be one of Proctor & Gamble's biggest `f shareholders," said a Noxell spokesman.
The Noxell chairman, long a leader in non-profit concerns in the Baltimore area, said that he will continue to serve on the boards of Johns Hopkins Health System and the Maryland Institute College of Art. And, although he resigned his position last month on Greater Baltimore Committee's board of directors, he said he will remain active in the GBC.
In addition, he plans to retain his seats on the boards of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., USF&G Corp. and PHH Corp., though he resigned last fall from his place on the MNC Financial board of directors.
Mr. Bunting said that in the course of negotiations with P&G for sale of the company in 1989, it was decided that he would remain as Noxell chairman for a limited period to smooth the transition.
"I've been here for 25 years, and I think my sense of history was important," Mr. Bunting said.
"I wanted to be sure that the culture of Noxell was understood."
Mr. Bunting characterized the transition period as a smooth and relatively uneventful one, noting, "It's been so good that it's been boring."
That being the case, he said he began paving the way for his retirement from Noxell six months ago with a telephone call to P&G's group vice president for beauty care products, Malcolm Jozoff, who is based at Procter & Gamble's headquarters in Cincinnati.
"It was my decision [to retire], but it was part of a broader plan zTC related to the merger," Mr. Bunting said.