NEW YORK — Catherine Zeta-Jones is planning on spending more time in the courthouse. The actress reportedly celebrated her birthday last week by filing a lawsuit in a Los Angeles federal court seeking $15 million in damages from Caudalie for running an advertising campaign that said she was seen buying the French firm’s skin care products. Also sued were Neiman Marcus Group, because it had allegedly run certain related promotions on its Web site, as well as Turnberry Condominiums, the location of Caudalie’s spa in Las Vegas.

Caudalie, known for its wine-based beauty products, declined comment on the suit. Neiman Marcus officials could not be reached at press time. Turnberry referred calls to Stirling Club, which houses the spa. Stirling’s general manager did not return calls for comment.

There were rumblings overseas as early as December 2002 that Zeta-Jones might be filing a lawsuit. According to reports, the “Chicago” Oscar winner said in the lawsuit that she has never purchased Caudalie products. The lawsuit also said she has not received any services from the spa and that the French firm had no right to use her name in promotions.

Zeta-Jones is certainly familiar with legal battles after spending several months locked in a dispute with Hello! magazine over its photos of her wedding to actor Michael Douglas. However, this time her reasons for suing Caudalie may be more business than personal. The actress in 2002 signed an exclusive four-year contract as global beauty spokeswoman for Elizabeth Arden. Industry sources said that the multimillion-dollar Arden contract is likely to garner her at least $8 million, or $2 million a year.

Zeta-Jones’ lawsuit is the latest in a series of lawsuits by celebrities alleging unauthorized use of their likenesses in advertising. Lawsuits were filed against Sephora USA in January by Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker and last September by Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. The two Sephora lawsuits, with each seeking $15 million in damages, were filed in a Los Angeles superior court.

A spokesman for Sephora declined comment.

— Vicki M. Young and Brid Costello, Paris

Allianz Stake Offer?


Berlin — The Beiersdorf rumor mill has heated up again. A report in the German edition of the Financial Times Friday asserted that Günter Herz, the former head of Tchibo, “is offering more than $4.37 billion [or 3.8 billion euros, at current exchange] for Allianz’s 43.6 percent Beiersdorf stake.”However, Reuters disseminated a statement from a spokeswoman for Herz who denied he is in talks with Allianz.

Herz and his sister, Daniela, left the Hamburg coffee and retail group in August with a settlement of 4 billion euros in their pockets. He had been instrumental in orchestrating Tchibo’s original investment in Beiersdorf. Tchibo has long held a 30 percent blocking minority stake in Beiersdorf, manufacturer of the Nivea brand. The coffee retailer often has been described as being eager to increase its holding. But the company’s war chest has been diminished as a result of the Herz settlement.

The Financial Times report further stated that Procter & Gamble remains in hot pursuit of Beiersdorf, quoting unnamed sources who said concrete negotiations are taking place between P&G and Allianz.

— Melissa Drier

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