A bitter family feud that threatens to split one of Europe's wealthiest family dynasties, the owners of L'Oreal, will go to court after a ruling in France yesterday.
The case will call into question the mental health of Liliane Bettencourt (pictured), the 86-year-old daughter of the founder and head of the family. It has been brought to court by Bettencourt's daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Myers, who claims a close confident of her mother's exploited the 86-year-old for just under €1 billion.
Bettencourt-Myers won her bid yesterday to seek a private prosecution against Francois-Marie Banier for manipulating Bettencourt into parting with €950 million in gifts, cheques and life insurance policies since 1996. Bettencourt-Myers claims Banier is "exploiting her weakness" by asking for and accepting the gifts from her mother. The case will go to court in December.
Bettencourt claims, speaking through her lawyers, that she is in command of all her facilities and has the right to share her fortune with her friend. When the case was first filed at the end of 2008 Bettencourt gave a rare interview to a French newspaper where she claimed her daughter was motivated by jealousy.
Bettencourt told le Journal du Dimanche: "My daughter is quite introverted, so an extrovert like Francois-Marie Banier is quite annoying to her. Even before, she was a cold child. Is she settling old scores?"
Both women serve on the L'Oreal board and Bettencourt holds a 30% stake in the company her father founded in 1909. Bettencourt has reportedly left her share in the company to her daughter despite the current rift that has left them not speaking.
Banier, 62, is a photographer and an author and first met Bettencourt on a photo-shoot in 1987. Bettencourt-Mayers became worried about the influence Banier was having on her mother in 2007 after the death of her father.
L'Oreal recorded 2008 revenues of €17 billion and Bettencourt herself is worth an estimated €13 billion.
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