PARIS — In the latest twist in the Bettencourt affair, L’Oréal said Monday it had ended its contracts with photographer François-Marie Banier. The company also separately announced three top-level executive appointments.
A L’Oréal spokeswoman confirmed, “The contracts were terminated since the media buzz that has developed around François-Marie Banier made their pursuit detrimental to L’Oréal.”
Banier reportedly was receiving 710,000 euros, or $928,325 at current exchange, from L’Oréal through his company, Héricy.
During a financial analyst meeting in late August, L’Oréal chief executive officer Jean-Paul Agon said Banier was providing a “real service” to L’Oréal but didn’t elaborate, explaining he reserved his response for a legal inquiry.
L’Oréal’s link to Banier was first put in the spotlight in July, when a preliminary inquiry was opened after a L’Oréal shareholder, claiming Banier benefitted from a contract of convenience with the company, lodged a complaint over alleged misuse of corporate funds. Other shareholders have subsequently followed suit.
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The Bettencourt affair began when Françoise Bettencourt Meyers brought a lawsuit against Banier in December 2007. She alleges he exploited the weakness of Liliane Bettencourt, her 87-year-old mother and L’Oréal’s largest single shareholder, with a 31 percent stake in the company. Bettencourt gave Banier assets valued at about 1 billion euros, or $1.31 billion. Banier denies any wrongdoing, while Bettencourt argues she is sound and acting on her own free will.
In other L’Oréal-related news, the company announced Monday three executive committee appointments, which are effective on Jan. 1.
Marc Menesguen is to spearhead L’Oréal’s newly formed strategic marketing department.
“The creation of a strategic marketing department is a result of the decision to anticipate worldwide evolutions in order to steer the group toward essential transformations in the areas of strategic watch, consumer understanding, marketing creativity, advertising creation, digital communication and distribution methods,” the French beauty giant stated.
Nicolas Hieronimus will replace Menesguen as managing director of L’Oréal’s luxury products division, a role he has held since 2004. Prior to that, Menesguen served as managing director of L’Oréal Japan and of Lancôme, among numerous other positions.
Hieronimus has led L’Oréal’s professional products division since 2008. Between 2005 and 2008, he was managing director of L’Oréal in Mexico. Hieronimus also spent 18 years in the company’s consumer products division.
Meantime, An Verhulst-Santos is to succeed Hieronimus as managing director of L’Oréal’s professional products division. For the past two years, she’s been general manager of that division in the U.S. Among the other titles she formerly held were general manager of L’Oréal’s professional products division in Brazil and Holland. At L’Oréal USA in New York, Pat Parenty, formerly brand president of L’Oréal USA’s Professional Products Division, will succeed Verhulst-Santos.