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MUSICAL CHAIRS?: As the Bettencourt saga intensifies media coverage increases in kind. Now the focus has shifted onto whether Liliane Bettencourt, the daughter of L'Oréal's founder and largest individual shareholder, is intent on making some changes in L'Oréal's board.
Le Figaro newspaper published a piece Friday — citing an unnamed source in Bettencourt's entourage — as saying that Bettencourt is angling to replace her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, and son-in-law, Jean-Pierre Meyers, with their two sons to help stem off a possible sale of the company. (That's despite Bettencourt Meyers repeatedly stating publicly that she will maintain the status quo regarding her stake in L'Oréal, given to her by her mother in bare ownership.)
As part of a shareholder agreement, Bettencourt, with a 31 percent share in the company, holds three seats on L'Oréal's board, while Nestlé, with about 30 percent, holds the same number.
Paris Match on Thursday ignited speculation about the composition of the L'Oréal board with a story headlined "Liliane Bettencourt Dreams to See Her Grandson Replace Her Son-in-Law." The magazine referred to a letter Bettencourt's lawyers sent to Bettencourt Meyers', according to an unnamed person close to Bettencourt, at the end of August requesting her to cede a portion of her capital holding to her older son, Jean-Victor Meyers. Moreover, the 24-year-old would allegedly then replace his father on L'Oréal's board once the term of the senior Meyers is up in 2012.
However, Pascal Wilhelm, a lawyer for Bettencourt, and Olvier Metzner, Bettencourt Meyers' attorney, reportedly aren't aware of such a letter.
According to Paris Match, L'Oréal chairman Lindsay Owen-Jones will be questioned in upcoming days in the ongoing enquiry linked to the François-Marie Banier case. A company spokeswoman could not be reached for comment. — Jennifer Weil