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PARIS — Some birthday present.
Just four days before her 89th birthday, Liliane Bettencourt, France’s wealthiest woman, was placed under the guardianship of her daughter and grandsons and is no longer in charge of her own purse strings.
The guardianship judge of Courbevoie, France, on Monday revoked — with immediate effect — lawyer Pascal Wilhelm’s mandate to handle the affairs of the L’Oréal heiress. She was placed under the guardianship of her grandson Jean-Victor Meyers, who is 25 and with whom she is said to be close. Meanwhile, Bettencourt’s holdings have been put under the guardianship of her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, and her two grandsons, Jean-Victor and Nicolas Meyers.
Bettencourt’s lawyers said they would appeal the decision.
The development focused the spotlight back on the Bettencourt scandal only 10 months after the mother and daughter declared a cease-fire in their long-running, vitriolic — and very public — tussle. However, it did not rattle skittish markets or raise fresh concerns over control of L’Oréal, the world’s biggest beauty company, in which the Bettencourt family is the largest individual shareholder with an almost 31 percent stake.
“Frankly, I don’t think it changes anything,” said Eva Quiroga, an analyst at UBS. “Ever since the dissolution of Gesparal [L’Oréal’s former holding company], Madame Bettencourt’s daughter has been quite vocal about wanting to pursue her mother’s strategy regarding L’Oréal, and I think that theme has continued throughout the last year or so.”
L’Oréal shares closed up 1.2 percent on Monday to 79.44 euros, or $109.21, on France’s CAC 40, which ended the day down 1.6 percent.
Monday’s legal decision has been long in the making, coming after numerous requests for guardianship protection made by Bettencourt Meyers during the Bettencourt affair, which began in December 2007 when she brought a lawsuit against photographer François-Marie Banier. She alleged Banier exploited the weakness of Bettencourt, who gave him assets valued at about 1 billion euros, or $1.37 billion at current exchange.
In December 2010, the family part of the saga, which had boiled into an affair of state as well, abruptly ended when the mother and daughter — who abandoned all the legal proceedings they had initiated in the feud — reconciled.
But beginning earlier this year, tension between the duo heated up again. Bettencourt Meyers believed her mother remained prey to people looking to profit from her alleged ill health, particularly Wilhelm, who had overseen Bettencourt’s affairs since January.