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IMAGE CONTROL: Tainted by the Bettencourt affair, the image of L’Oréal has plunged to 22nd place in a ranking of France’s 30 largest companies published Saturday. In a similar survey last March, the French beauty giant ranked as the sixth most admired firm. Commissioned by the Journal du Dimanche and carried out by Ipsos-Posternak, the poll was based on telephone interviews with 952 adults and considered representative of the French population. It puts L’Oréal in the environs of such low-ranking firms as France Telecom, ranked 29th after being rocked by a wave of employee suicides. Supermarket operator Leclerc and automakers Citroën and Peugeot took the top three spots. L’Oréal chief executive officer Jean-Paul Agon told the weekend paper that he “wasn’t surprised” the scandal had a reverse halo effect on its image, but called it “unjust for the company and its employees.” He also said it has had no impact on its sales in France.
What started as a simple dispute between L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, over assets Bettencourt gave to French photographer François-Marie Banier, has exploded into a political scandal endangering the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy.