L’Oreal heiress scandal is back in the headlines

The legal battle between L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and her daughter Francoise Meyers has re-erupted.

On Wednesday French daily Le Monde reported that Meyers had made a fresh application for her mother to be made a ward of court (effectively under the guardianship of a judge), an issue that was apparently resolved in December 2010. Meyer states that she is seeking to protect the estate and her eventual inheritance.

The application, according to the newspaper, centres on the role of Pascal Wilhelm, a lawyer who has a “mandate for future protection” which effectively makes him the executor of Bettencourt’s estate should she become incapable of managing it herself.

Meyer has long argued that her mother should be made a ward of court and is seeking to have Wilhelm’s control over her estate curtailed.

In a court order dated March 25, which was also published in Le Monde, a judge ruled that “Liliane Bettencourt’s cognitive faculties had been significantly altered by brain disease.”

According to the newspaper, investigating Judge Jean-Michel Gentil on Tuesday visited Bettencourt, 88, with the police and doctors after she refused legal summons on two occasions citing health reasons.

The family quarrel originally erupted in 2007, and led to scandals including accusations of tax fraud on a massive scale as well as alleged illegal cash donations to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party.

At the root of the family dispute was the alleged abuse of Bettencourt’s weakness by society photographer Francois-Marie Banier, who had been given “gifts” by the billionaire totalling millions of euros.

The guardianship order would be recognition that Bettencourt, 88, is incapable of managing her own finances.


L’Oreal heiress scandal is back in the headlines
The daughter of France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, is once again trying to have her mother made a ward of court in an effort to protect her inheritance. The scandal has dominated French headlines since summer 2010.
June 9, 2011

Additional coverage:

Bettencourt Gave Up 45% of Her L’Oreal Dividends, Figaro Says
Heather Smith
June 9, 2011

Liliane Bettencourt gave up 45 percent of her L’Oreal SA (OR) dividends under a settlement with her daughter in December ending their disputes over gifts to the cosmetic heiress’s friend, Le Figaro reported today from an interview with her lawyer Pascal Wilhelm.

Bettencourt’s daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, receives 20 percent of the dividends directly and the other 25 percent are reinvested in L’Oreal, earning Bettencourt 300 million euros ($438 million), according to the interview with Wilhelm.

Wilhelm said he is in regular contact with Meyers and her lawyer regarding the mother’s spending and has an agreement from them on an investment in a company belonging to another Wilhelm client, the newspaper said.

As pat of the settlement, Wilhelm has done an inventory of Bettencourt’s estate, restored her ownership of the Seychelles island of Arros, and is sorting out the fate of various artworks Bettencourt had given her friend Francois-Marie Banier, the newspaper said. Banier received 350 million euros under the deal, the newspaper said, citing Wilhelm.

Wilhelm said Meyers’s new application, filed June 7, for a court-appointed guardian for her mother violates the settlement terms and took him by surprise after he spent time that same day with Bettencourt, her daughter and son-in-law, according to the newspaper.