Bloomberg News

L’Oreal Heiress Loses Bid to End Daughter’s Guardianship

January 18, 2012

(Updates with family statement in third paragraph.)

Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Liliane Bettencourt lost a bid to remove her daughter and grandsons as her physical and financial guardians, a French court said today in rejecting the L’Oreal SA heiress’s appeal.

The three will continue in their roles, the appeals court in Versailles, near Paris, said in refusing to alter the October decision by a family court judge who said Bettencourt wasn’t mentally fit to manage her own affairs.

“This decision reasserts Madame Liliane Bettencourt’s protection and the family’s duties,” her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, and grandsons said in an e-mailed statement. Bettencourt is “protected from the pressure and solicitation that she has suffered for too long.”

Today’s decision is the latest in a longstanding feud between the 89-year-old and her daughter. Bettencourt, France’s third-richest person, is the only child of L’Oreal’s founder. The family owns almost 31 percent of the world’s largest cosmetics maker through a holding company.

Lawyers for Bettencourt and her daughter didn’t immediately return calls for comment on the decision. L’Oreal spokeswoman Stephanie Carson-Parker referred requests for comment to the family.

An effort by Bettencourt to have her oldest grandson named as sole guardian was rejected in November. The mother and daughter have fought for years over how to manage her fortune, estimated at $23.5 billion by Forbes magazine in March, making her the world’s 15th-richest person.

‘Profound Bond’

Bettencourt Meyers and her sons will continue to exercise the family’s voting rights through the holding company, according to the statement. They have a “profound bond with L’Oreal” and want “to continue to support its future development.”

Bettencourt’s guardianship doesn’t change a 2004 accord between the Bettencourt family and Nestle SA, which owns 29.6 percent of L’Oreal, the family said in October. Bettencourt and the world’s largest food company gave each other right of first refusal over their stakes that runs through April 29, 2014.

Bettencourt Meyers initiated her legal case in 2007, after becoming concerned an artist friend of her mother’s had manipulated her to secure 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) worth of gifts, including art, real estate and insurance policies.

Investigating judges in Bordeaux, France, have charged friends and advisers to Bettencourt with taking advantage of her mental condition. The investigation is continuing and the defendants have denied the claims.

--Editors: Peter Chapman, Anthony Aarons

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Smith in Paris at hsmith26@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.


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