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Liliane Bettencourt placed under guardianship

By Giulia Cambieri

L'Oreal heiress and France's richest woman Liliane Bettencourt suffers from "mixed dementia" and "modestly severe" Alzheimer’s and must be put under the care of a legal guardian, a French court ruled on 17 October.

Although the lawyers of Bettencourt, who turns 89 this week, said they would appeal against the ruling, the judge’s decision takes effect immediately and places the heiress under the protection of her family.

Her eldest grandson, Jean-Victor Meyers, was appointed guardian and will look after Bettencourt’s health and personal wellbeing, while her grandsons and estranged daughter, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, will now oversee the family’s fortune, which includes a 31% stake in the world’s largest cosmetic company and is estimated at €15 billion.

Bettencourt-Meyers said that the decision would not affect L’Oreal’s future.

The ruling is the latest in a longstanding feud between Bettencourt and her daughter. The conflict broke out in 2007, when Bettencourt-Meyers accused her mother’s friend, celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier, of manipulating the family business heiress into parting with nearly €1 billion worth of gifts.

Although the two later reconciled, this was temporary and in June 2011 Bettencourt-Meyers accused Bettencourt’s lawyer, Pascal Wilhelm, of pushing her mother to invest €143 million in an online gambling company owned by a businessman that he also represented.

She requested that her mother be put under legal guardianship, claiming she was no longer in command of her mental faculties.

Both women sit on the board of the cosmetics company, which was founded by Bettencourt’s father in 1909. They collectively own 31% of the Clichy, France-based family business.