Friday, February 27, 2015
Liliane Bettencourt, the 92-year-old heir to the L’Oreal cosmetics fortune, is at the center of a courtroom battle in southwestern France, where prosecutors and defense lawyers paint vastly different portraits of Ms. Bettencourt.
The case is the universal story of any wealth family with an elderly relative who fluctuates between independence and vulnerability. Prosecutors allege that her age, the beginnings of dementia, and a daily medical regimen of 56 pills, invited exploitation. So when French photographer, Francois-Marie Banier gained the largest share of her fortune ($1.13 billion), eyebrows raised. “Liliane wanted to do things for me, to ease my life,” testified the photographer, who is facing three years in prison. Mr. Banier’s lawyers argued that Mrs. Bettencourt made calculated choices and challenged the notion she was showing signs of dementia when she gave away lavish gifts.
Also on trial are Mr. Banier’s friend, Martin d’Orgeval, Patrice de Maistre, and Jean-Michel Normand. The list also includes a lawyer, a businessman, the former manager of Mrs. Bettencourt’s private island and her onetime nurse, Alain Thurin. Investigators say they believe the amount of money taken from Mrs. Bettencourt totals more than €1 billion from a variety of schemes.
The trial ended on Wednesday, and a panel of judges said it would announce its verdict on May 28.
See Doreen Carvajal, In Case of L’Oreal Heiress, a Private World of Wealth Becomes Public, The New York Times, Feb. 25, 2015.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.