L'Oreal heiress, daughter settle family feud

Bettencourt, and her daughter said on Monday they had settled a family feud that had led to tax and political funding investigations.

L'Oreal heiress, daughter settle family feud

France's richest woman, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, and her daughter said on Monday they had settled a family feud that had led to tax and political funding investigations.

What began as a row over gifts to a family friend expanded earlier this year into a web of investigations that threatened to suck in President Nicolas Sarkozy and raised questions about the stability of holdings in the L'Oreal cosmetics empire.

"The decision that Francoise and I have taken offers me hope. It meets my wish to see the family united," Bettencourt said in the joint statement with her daughter.

"We can now embrace the future together."

Investment analysts said the agreement should end months of feuding that had on occasion raised questions over the long-term solidity of the Bettencourt family as core shareholders.

"This probably amounts to a sign of family commitment to keep L'Oreal, and not to sell to Nestle ," said one analyst who asked not to be identified.

L'Oreal Chief Executive Jean-Paul Agon told employees of the beauty products group that he was "very happy" about the reconciliation between the group's biggest shareholders.

Charges dropped

Labour Minister Eric Woerth left the government last month amid allegations he was involved in illegal financing of the ruling UMP party and influence-peddling on behalf of Bettencourt. Woerth has denied any wrongdoing and Bettencourt has said she had no memory of giving him money.

Under an agreement to end the dispute, Bettencourt's daughter Francoise Bettencourt Meyers agreed to drop charges against celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier that he swindled her mother by receiving gifts.

The charges caused the original spat between Bettencourt and her daughter before snowballing into a broad political scandal.

The affair has fallen into the background since Woerth was dropped in a cabinet reshuffle but could return to bite the government as the investigations reach their conclusions.

Bettencourt Meyers had filed a criminal complaint against Banier in 2007, accusing him of abusing her mother's frailty after Bettencourt showered him with gifts worth 1 billion euros. Banier has denied wrongdoing.

Under the accord Bettencourt, 88, will remain president of the holding company Tethys which represents the family interests in L'Oreal, Bettencourt Meyers' husband, Jean-Pierre Meyers, will become chief executive and their sons will join the board.

The Bettencourt family holds a nearly 31 percent stake in L'Oreal, with Swiss foods conglomerate Nestle the next biggest shareholder with a 29.77 percent stake.

To solve their dispute, Bettencourt Meyers agreed to stop trying to have a legal guardian appointed to her mother.

Bettencourt agreed not to see Banier any more and to drop her wealth manager Patrice de Maistre, who had employed Woerth's wife until she resigned earlier this year.


Reuters

Last Mod: 07 Aralık 2010, 15:43
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