Bloomberg News

Europe’s Richest Woman Sells Island for $60 Million

August 01, 2012

Europe’s Richest Woman Sells Seychelles Island for $60 Million

L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, center, and her grandson Jean-Victor Meyers, fourth right, leave the L'Oreal-UNESCO prize for the women in science, in Paris, on March 29, 2012. Photographer: Thibault Camus/AP Photo

Liliane Bettencourt, Europe’s richest woman, sold her private island in the Seychelles to a marine conservation organization for $60 million.

The L’Oreal SA (OR) heiress, 89, bought the 0.6-square mile (150-hectare) D’Arros Island and several smaller islands in 1998. The buyer, Geneva-based Save Our Seas Foundation, plans to turn the islands into a nature reserve. Jean-Christophe Chiquet, a spokesman for the Bettencourt family, confirmed the sale.

“Previously, D’Arros did not enjoy any protection. Anybody could have gone there and done what they wanted,” Rolph Payet, the Seychelles’ environment and energy minister, said at a press conference in the island nation yesterday. “Now, with protected status under the Nature Conservancy Act, there will be enforcement and monitoring.”

Save Our Seas is a privately funded non-profit organization that supports marine life research, education and conservation projects. Christoph Lamps, a spokesman for the foundation, declined to identify the individual who founded Save Our Seas, only saying that he “is not Swiss.”

Bettencourt is worth $23.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. She is the second-richest person in France, behind Bernard Arnault, who controls LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (MC), the world’s largest luxury-goods company.

There are multiple investigations in progress related to Bettencourt. Authorities searched the home and Paris office of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy on July 3, as part of an investigation into claims that cash from Bettencourt illegally funded his 2007 election campaign. Judges in Bordeaux are looking into claims the billionaire, now a court-ordered ward of her family, was manipulated by members of her entourage into giving away cash, art, real estate and other property.

The Seychelles, a collection of more than 100 islands, lie about 1,000 miles off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean.

To contact the reporter on this story: Devon Pendleton in New York at dpendleton@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew G. Miller at mmiller144@bloomberg.net


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