L’Oréal president Lindsay Owen-Jones discussed the Bettencourt affair in an interview to appear in today’s edition of French magazine Le Point. “My role and the attachment I have for this company make it imperative that I intervene,” he is reported as saying. In the story, Owen-Jones said he’s “concerned” for L’Oréal’s image and “worried for its identity.” He also explained he wishes for a “reconciliation” between Liliane Bettencourt — the daughter of L’Oréal’s founder and its largest individual shareholder, with a 31 percent stake in the company — and her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers.
The Bettencourt affair began in December 2007, when Bettencourt Meyers brought a lawsuit against photographer François-Marie Banier. She alleges he exploited the weakness of 87-year-old Bettencourt, who had given him assets valued at about 1 billion euros, or $1.36 billion at current exchange. The ongoing case helped to drive a deep rift between the mother and daughter.
This story first appeared in the September 30, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Until now, [L’Oréal] has passed through this storm without damage, its results are excellent,” said Owen-Jones, adding, “abroad, where the name Bettencourt is less known than in France, one speaks of a L’Oréal affair.”
He said Banier is “absolutely not” one of his friends.
Regarding the gift of 100 million euros, or $136.3 million, Owen-Jones received from Bettencourt in 2005, he explained, “I said thank you and I continue to say thank you. For me, it was the final chapter of a fairy tale.” Quite a chapter.