Latest update: 07/12/2010
Billionaire Bettencourt reconciles with daughter
L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, France’s richest woman, reconciled with her daughter on Monday and agreed to end all ongoing court cases. Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers had tried to declare her mother “mentally unfit” to handle her fortune.
AFP - Billionaire L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt has reconciled with her daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, they announced Monday, ending a legal wrangle that endangered France's biggest fortune.
Bettencourt-Meyers had been seeking to have her 88-year-old mother declared mentally unfit to manage the estimated 17-billion-euro fortune and had sued a society photographer, accusing him of exploiting his ties to the family.
But on Monday the feuding relatives issued a joint statement which said they had come to a "private agreement" to end all ongoing court cases.
"The decision that Francoise and I have taken offers me hope. It meets my wish to see the family united. We can now embrace the future together," the elderly shampoo and cosmetics heiress said, according to the statement.
In the same statement, the daughter Bettencourt-Myers added: "This agreement allows us at last to bring back the family peace shared as much by my husband and my children as by my mother.
"I was also longing for such an end for the entire L'Oreal Company that is carrying on its fabulous story and that is so dear to me."
The estranged mother and daughter were to meet later Monday, lawyers said.
The daughter's lawyer Olivier Metzner told AFP: "Liliane and Francoise, as they had hoped, have reconciled and agreed to put an end to all disputes.
"They are overjoyed to be together again, even if it took three years of judicial disagreements to get to this happy ending," he said, confirming that Francoise had dropped her case against photographer Francois-Marie Banier.
Bettencourt broke with former companion Banier, 25 years her junior, earlier this year, cutting him out of her will and depriving him of an estimated 1.25 billion euros.
The daughter accused Banier, 63, of exploiting her mother's vulnerability to prise a billion euros in gifts out of her -- including a private Seychelles island -- and to get himself written into her will.
Bettencourt senior has always insisted she remained mentally capable.
The deal will also see Bettencourt-Meyers drop abuse of trust lawsuits against Patrice de Maistre, who used to manage the Bettencourt fortune, as well as tax lawyer Fabrice Goguel, who will in turn drop his counter-suit.
De Maistre "no longer manages Mrs Bettencourt's fortune" Metzner said.
While precise details of the private arrangement to end the case have not been released, lawyers said Bettencourt's son-in-law Jean-Pierre Meyers and her grandchildren will take on a bigger role in the L'Oreal holding company.
The case has also taken a political twist, after a butler illegally taped Bettencourt talking to her financial manager and leaked a recording to the press which suggested that she had made illegal campaign donations.
Separate investigations have been launched into this side of the scandal, and both President Nicolas Sarkozy and his former campaign treasurer and labour minister Eric Woerth have been forced to deny wrongdoing.
The investigation into the alleged illegal campaign cash will go ahead, after the Court of Cassation transferred the case to Bordeaux in southwest France from Nanterre outside Paris "to ensure the serenity of justice."
Woerth is suspected, among other things, of having improperly facilitated De Maistre's giving his wife Florence a job helping to manage Bettencourt's fortune while he was budget minister.
Metzner said that since the Bettencourt spat is out of the way, the case remaining against Woerth "does not interest us."