PARIS — Jean-Victor Meyers, the 25-year-old grandson of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, was approved by shareholders Tuesday as a board member of the French beauty giant.
This story first appeared in the April 18, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Their vote took place at the end of L’Oréal’s annual general meeting, which ran for almost three hours here. As reported in mid-February, Bettencourt stepped down from the company’s board and Meyers was co-opted to replace her until the general meeting. His candidacy was approved by 97.6 percent of the firm’s stakeholders.
“This transition is naturally the confirmation of the commitment of the Bettencourt Meyers family in support of the company, and it’s very good news for us all — for the company, for its shareholders and the future of our group,” said Jean-Paul Agon, L’Oréal chairman and chief executive officer. “Furthermore, we know that Madame Bettencourt retains full interest in the activities of the group that she will continue to support and follow.”
The Bettencourt family is the largest single shareholder in L’Oréal, with 30.8 percent.
Meyers is a son of Bettencourt’s daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, and also his grandmother’s legal guardian. He studied economics and management in France and the U.S. Over the past few years, Meyers spent some months at L’Oréal. He’s also been a member of the supervisory board of the Bettencourt family’s holding company, Téthys, since January 2011.
The position on L’Oréal’s board of Meyers’ father, Jean-Pierre Meyers, was renewed at the meeting for another four-year tenure. Bettencourt Meyers sits on the board, as well.
Agon opened the conference paying homage to Bettencourt.
“I would like to take this opportunity to pay a warm tribute to Madame Liliane Bettencourt, who is not with us today, a few weeks after she’s left the board,” he said. “On behalf of all of the directors present here, but also on my personal behalf and on the behalf of all L’Oréal employees, I should like to express our profound gratitude to her. This is a very emotional moment, as you will appreciate, for all L’Oréal employees who have a great deal of affection for her.
“In fact, Madame Liliane Bettencourt, since her father passed away in 1957, has always provided staunch support to our company, which has greatly contributed to the considerable expansion of [L’Oréal],” continued Agon. “I would like to pay tribute here to a remarkable woman who over decades has been able to convey the spirit of the founder, of her father, the search for excellence, the commitment to work well done and also respect for the men and women in the company. Madame Bettencourt has an entrepreneurship, a natural curiosity, a boldness for new ideas, which have been a valuable support to us in our business.”
Agon said Bettencourt not only ensured the stability of L’Oréal’s shareholdership, but also provided support to its management, “a very rare asset, indeed irreplaceable for a company such as ours with a long-term strategy. Through her advice, through her considerate counsel, she’s encouraged us to take risks, to go further. If L’Oréal is the leading cosmetics company worldwide, it’s because she shared with us every stage in this fine adventure started by her father. We are very grateful to her for that.”
During the conference, Jean-Victor Meyers sat in the front row at the center of the auditorium next to his mother. His father was seated on the podium.
Meyers’ joining of L’Oréal’s board marks another chapter in what has been a long-running saga of the Bettencourts involving family feuds, lawsuits, political scandal and vast wealth. The Bettencourt affair began in December 2007, when Bettencourt Meyers brought a lawsuit against photographer François-Marie Banier. She alleged Banier exploited the weakness of Bettencourt, who gave him assets valued at about 1 billion euros, or $1.31 billion at current exchange.
During the business discussion, Agon said, “We believe that our market will continue to remain lastingly buoyant. Its growth will be driven by the contribution of emerging markets, where consumption per capita is six-times lower than in Europe or North America. These countries — where hundreds of millions of consumers of the middle classes aspire to consume quality consumer products and can now afford them — offer a remarkable growth opportunity and should account for two-thirds of the global market within 10 years and could well contribute to 80 percent of the growth in the cosmetics market by then.
“So, in a market with robust growth, our strategy is clear. It’s universalization and beauty for all. Our number-one priority is an accelerated internationalization of the group and in particular to tap into new markets. Their growth in our sales has almost doubled between 2000 and 2011 and will continue to grow strongly.”