MUSICAL CHAIRS?: As the Bettencourt saga intensifies media coverage increases in kind. Now the focus has shifted onto whether Liliane Bettencourt, the daughter of L’Oréal’s founder and largest individual shareholder, is intent on making some changes in L’Oréal’s board.
Le Figaro newspaper published a piece Friday — citing an unnamed source in Bettencourt’s entourage — as saying that Bettencourt is angling to replace her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, and son-in-law, Jean-Pierre Meyers, with their two sons to help stem off a possible sale of the company. (That’s despite Bettencourt Meyers repeatedly stating publicly that she will maintain the status quo regarding her stake in L’Oréal, given to her by her mother in bare ownership.)
As part of a shareholder agreement, Bettencourt, with a 31 percent share in the company, holds three seats on L’Oréal’s board, while Nestlé, with about 30 percent, holds the same number.
Paris Match on Thursday ignited speculation about the composition of the L’Oréal board with a story headlined “Liliane Bettencourt Dreams to See Her Grandson Replace Her Son-in-Law.” The magazine referred to a letter Bettencourt’s lawyers sent to Bettencourt Meyers’, according to an unnamed person close to Bettencourt, at the end of August requesting her to cede a portion of her capital holding to her older son, Jean-Victor Meyers. Moreover, the 24-year-old would allegedly then replace his father on L’Oréal’s board once the term of the senior Meyers is up in 2012.
However, Pascal Wilhelm, a lawyer for Bettencourt, and Olvier Metzner, Bettencourt Meyers’ attorney, reportedly aren’t aware of such a letter.
According to Paris Match, L’Oréal chairman Lindsay Owen-Jones will be questioned in upcoming days in the ongoing enquiry linked to the François-Marie Banier case. A company spokeswoman could not be reached for comment. — Jennifer Weil
A W RESIGNATION: Stefano Tonchi’s Dream Team at W took a hit last week. Jody Quon, W’s freshly minted creative director, resigned and is leaving Condé Nast less than six months on the job.
“Very sad, very sad,” said Tonchi in an interview on Friday afternoon, talking about his reaction to the news.
And why did she leave? “Very much that she didn’t feel comfortable anymore and kind of agreed that it was maybe not the best match,” he said, describing her reasons for leaving.
Tonchi said he was surprised by the decision but knew something was afoot when he returned from the fashion shows in Europe.
“I really came back 10 days ago and there was a lot of tension in the office, much more than before,” he said.
When asked to elaborate, he said, “I was away and when I came back there was a certain tension. That is all.”
Insiders said Quon clashed with staffers at the revamped magazine. When asked if there was a culture clash or a personality clash, Tonchi said, “Probably both,” but said he couldn’t elaborate or speak for Quon.
“From my side, I was very happy with what she has done with the magazine and I appreciate her professionally, and, more than that, her elegance,” he said.
Quon was part of a late April announcement when the magazine made four major editorial hires, which also included editor at large Lynn Hirschberg, executive managing editor Lawrence Karol and fashion news and features director Armand Limnander. Mr. Karol left a few weeks ago to decamp to Architectural Digest with Mr. Tonchi’s blessing.
When asked if he made any attempt to keep her when she offered to resign, Tonchi said, “We talked a little about issues and things and I think her feelings were very strong. She had all the right to make her own decision, it’s her life and she has to live it.
“I respect her decision,” he continued. “I accepted it.”
Tonchi said he had no intentions to replace her.
Quon could not be reached for comment.
— John Koblin and M.L