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Bettencourt Said in $1.36B Gift Flap

Liliane Bettencourt has reportedly given photographer François-Marie Banier gifts of some 1 billion euros.

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PARIS — Liliane Bettencourt has reportedly given photographer François-Marie Banier gifts of some 1 billion euros, or $1.36 billion at current exchange, causing her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, to lodge a complaint earlier this year.

This story first appeared in the December 16, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

According to press reports here, Bettencourt, the 86-year-old daughter of L’Oréal’s founder, Eugene Schueller, who holds a 30 percent stake in the French beauty giant and is considered to be the wealthiest woman in France, has given Banier close to 1 billion euros in the form of financial investments and artwork over the years (with the tempo of gift-giving ramping up recently).

In response, Bettencourt Meyers is said to have lodged a complaint for “exploitation of weakness” in the public prosecutor’s office of Nanterre, a Paris suburb, which kicked off a preliminary inquiry.

Banier, who recently photographed Diane von Furstenberg’s advertising campaign featuring Natalia Vodianova and whose roster of star-studded friends has included Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Isabelle Adjani, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis, Lauren Bacall and Catherine Deneuve — among others — could not be reached for comment. Neither could Bettencourt Meyer’s lawyer, Olivier Metzner, nor the public prosecutor of Nanterre, Philippe Courroye, be reached.

Bettencourt and Banier have long been friends. In March 2004, for instance, she attended his first American show, at the Bass Museum in Miami Beach, which L’Oréal sponsored.

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