L'Oreal heiress seeks to reassure staff

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Liliane bettencourt, L'oréal

The largest shareholder in L’Oreal has sought to reassure staff that she is of sound mind after giving away a sizable portion of her estimated $23bn fortune to a celebrated photographer.

L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt has gradually given away around $1.45bn in gifts and life insurance contacts to society photographer Francois-Marie Banier.

Daughter files lawsuit

Her generosity prompted her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, who sits on the L’Oreal board, to file a suit earlier this month accusing Banier of manipulating a vulnerable person.

In a statement, quoted by AFP, Liliane Bettencourt sought to dispel fears that her health was faltering.

“Concerning recent reports in the press, Ms Liliane Bettencourt will make no comment. She does however wish to reassure her friends about her excellent state of health.”

Potential reprecussions for L'Oreal

The statement went on to say she was well aware that these articles could alarm L’Oreal employees but that she wished to reassure them. It said she had long taken all necessary measures to allow the company to develop normally.

Bettencourt, whose father Eugene Schueller founded L’Oreal in 1909, worked with her daughter for many years to manage her 27.5 percent controlling stake in the world’s largest cosmetics company. However, media reports claim that the two are no longer on speaking terms.

A preliminary inquiry into the affair is underway and is expected to be wrapped up shortly. If the French judicial authorities do deem Bettencourt mentally unfit to administer her fortune alone, she could be placed under independent financial supervision.

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