NEW YORK — In an issue that continues to hound the world’s largest cosmetics company, L’Oreal SA officials expressed shock at a new round of French press reports of anti-Semitic activities by a former top executive.
The focus of the latest reports is on the supposed Nazi sympathies of Andre Bettencourt, president of Gesparal, L’Oreal’s holding company and former vice chairman of the L’Oreal board.
On Sunday, a front-page article in the French daily Le Monde detailed what the paper labeled “L’Affaire Bettencourt” and it reprinted incendiary anti-Semitic passages allegedly written by Bettencourt during a 21-month stint, starting in 1940, as an editorial writer for the collaborationist French weekly La Terre Francaise. The paper was controlled, in part, by the Gestapo, according the article.
Le Monde said details of Bettencourt’s role with the newspaper were circulated last fall by a former L’Oreal executive, Jean Frydman, who has been in a dispute with the firm since 1991. Frydman has accused L’Oreal executives of anti-Semitic acts, including arranging the end of production of Helena Rubinstein products in Israel to escape an Arab boycott. L’Oreal, which never owned the plant, has denied Frydman’s charge and began manufacturing in Israel last month.
A L’Oreal spokeswoman Monday called the Le Monde article “shocking,” but she deferred comment to Bettencourt, who could not be reached.
Le Monde quoted Bettencourt: “I have always said I regretted what I wrote, and in particular 20 lines about Jews which I will regret my whole life.”

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