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Amway President, a Spurned Suitor, Vows to 'Beat' Avon

June 12, 1989| From Associated Press and

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Amway Corp. President Richard DeVos has turned to taunting Avon Products Inc. for rejecting Amway's recent takeover bid, telling a company convention crowd that if Amway can't join them, "We'll just beat 'em."

The thousands of Amway distributors roared in approval Saturday as DeVos joked the company's new motto may be "Sponsor An Avon Lady Today."

About 7,500 of Amway's 1 million independent distributors worldwide attended the two-day convention at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

The convention, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Ada, Mich.-based company, comes about a month after Amway teamed up with corporate raider Irwin Jacobs to buy a 10.3% stake in Avon. A week later, Amway offered to buy the New York-based cosmetics company for $2.1 billion.

Avon rejected the offer, and in a series of stinging letters to Amway it described the direct-sales company as "marked by zealotry" and said such a merger "would destroy Avon's good name."

Amway withdrew its offer, calling Avon's rejection hysterical, irresponsible and vicious.

"I don't think we'll have to buy Avon, we'll just beat 'em," DeVos said.

After a nearly evangelical speech describing Amway distributors as "life-enrichers," DeVos said of the Avon bid: "We were only trying to enrich their lives."

DeVos and Chairman Jay Van Andel founded the company in 1959 by mixing laundry suds in their basement.

"Instead of seeing what kind of dirt they could dig up, we could have shown them how to clean up," DeVos said of Avon.

The "dirt" refers to an investigation Avon launched into Amway operations to fend off the bid. It turned up possible financial wrongdoings by the company's chief executive, William W. Nicholson.

Amway also is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission for alleged illegal stock activity in the Amway-Jacobs partnership.

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