PARIS — The Bettencourt battle continues.
This story first appeared in the December 14, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
On Friday, a court in Nanterre, France, scheduled another proceeding in the lawsuit brought in December 2007 by Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, the granddaughter of L’Oréal’s founder, against the photographer and writer François-Marie Banier. Bettencourt Meyers alleges Banier’s “exploitation of weakness” of her mother, Liliane Bettencourt.
Bettencourt gave Banier “gifts” valued at almost 1 billion euros, or $1.46 billion at current exchange.
The next court proceeding is scheduled for April 15 and 16. Before then, Bettencourt is to undergo three independent medical evaluations. The evaluation reports are to be submitted to the court by March 10.
In the run-up to the hearing on Friday, the French press was awash with related stories. As reported, for example, Le Monde newspaper published on Wednesday an exclusive, two-page interview with Banier.
To the question concerning whether he had forced Bettencourt to give him the money, Banier said: “It is a matter of gifts, which I refused for a long time. These gifts come from a woman who is totally lucid. The first go back to 1995 and spread over 10 years. And I am not the only one — far from that — to have benefited.”
On Dec. 4 and 5, some French newspapers cited court documents in which Banier is said to have told authorities that Bettencourt had given gifts to a number of other people, including two former heads of L’Oréal, Lindsay Owen-Jones and François Dalle. They reportedly received 100 million euros, or $146.1 million, and 8 percent of the firm’s shares as a reward for building the company into the industry leader.
Last week, a guardianship judge in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, turned down Bettencourt Meyers’ application to obtain legal protection for her mother.