Court rules L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt unfit to run affairs

Liliane Bettencourt, le 26 janvier 2011.
Liliane Bettencourt, le 26 janvier 2011. REUTERS /Charles Platiau

L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt is to be placed under the guardianship of her eldest grandson, Jean-Victor Meyers, who is 25 years old; the lawyer of her estranged daughter said on Monday after a court hearing.


France's richest woman, who is 88, has fiercely opposed her family's attempt to take charge of her fortune.

Lawyer Charlotte Robbe-Phan said Liliane Bettencourt’s fortune, estimated to be worth over 16 billion euros, will be placed under the guardianship of her daughter Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, as well as grandsons Jean-Victor and Nicolas.

In an interview published in Sunday’s Journal du Dimanche, Bettencourt threatened to leave France if her daughter managed to place her under her guardianship.

Her lawyer Jean-Rene Farthouat said he would appeal against the court ruling.

Bettencourt is on L'Oreal's board of directors but family members stressed that, as they will be the guardians, the court's decision should have little impact on the running of the cosmetics giant.

Farthouat criticised the "deeply disappointing decision that I will have to inform Mrs Bettencourt of with difficulty. This decision includes clear legal errors and is contrary to common sense."

The website of newspaper Le Monde on Monday quoted a medical report for use by the court as saying that Bettencourt was suffering from "mixed dementia" and "moderately severe" Alzheimer's disease.

Bettencourt "suffers from cognitive difficulties evidenced by temporal disorientation, memory problems, reasoning difficulties and aphasic elements," Le Monde quoted the report as saying.

The report said Bettencourt "is in the midst of a "slow and progressive process of cerebral degeneration."

Bettencourt-Meyers has long argued that her mother is mentally unfit to manage the vast fortune she inherited when her father and L'Oréal founder Eugene Schueller died in 1957.

She has alleged that people close to her mother took advantage of her. She particularly mistrusted celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier, who was Liliane Bettencourt's sole named beneficiary in a will drawn up in December 2007.

But Bettencourt broke with Banier earlier this year, cutting him out of her will and depriving him of an estimated 1.25 billion euros.



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