PARIS — The last chapter is over for the Bettencourt affair, more than 11 years after the saga began in France, and took many subsequent twists and turns.
An examining magistrate in Paris has dismissed charges brought against Françoise Bettencourt Meyers — daughter of the late L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt — in 2016 by photographer-writer François-Marie Banier. He alleged she had bribed witnesses, notably her mother’s former accountant.
Allegations of false testimony related to five of Bettencourt’s former employees and a friend have also been dismissed, according to Le Journal du Dimanche, which revealed the information.
The Bettencourt affair began in December 2007, when Bettencourt Meyers brought a lawsuit against Banier. She alleged he exploited the weakness of her mother, who had given Banier assets valued at around 1 billion euros.
Banier denied any wrongdoing, while Bettencourt maintained she was sound and acting on her own free will. But by summer 2010, the Bettencourt affair had reached full boil. It spilled into the governmental arena, when an allegation surfaced that then-labor minister Éric Woerth, while serving as France’s budget minister and UMP party treasurer in 2007, had received from the Bettencourts a campaign donation for presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy that was well above the legal limit.
The French media was whipped into a lather by successive revelations. Many, such as news that Bettencourt’s former butler had secretly taped her conversations with advisers, were leaked to the press.
Some observers questioned whether the Bettencourt affair would impact L’Oréal’s future ownership, while others believed it helped undermine Sarkozy’s political standing as president, among other wide-reaching ramifications.
On Dec. 6, 2010, in a surprising move, Bettencourt Meyers abandoned all the legal proceedings she had initiated. She and her mother issued a joint statement saying they’d reconciled to end the conflicts that disrupted their family life and had reached a common accord. However, that didn’t stop French judges from continuing to investigate criminal allegations that sprang from the saga.
Following the death of her father, L’Oréal founder Eugène Schueller, Bettencourt became the largest individual shareholder in the French beauty giant. She passed away in September 2017, at the age of 94.
Bettencourt Meyers was Bettencourt’s sole child. Her family now represents L’Oréal’s largest single stakeholder, owning 33.14 percent of the 26.9 billion-euro-company at the end of 2018.