Join 3,500 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Because they're Woerth it
July 15, 2010 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Forget the Ewings, the Carringtons, or the Channings and Giobertis, France is in the grip of the real-life soap opera of the Bettencourts, heiresses to the L'Oréal cosmetics empire, featuring a suave gigolo, a scheming wealth manager, a paradise island, feuding lawyers, embarrassed politicians, squabbling magistrates, New Media, another major multinational, and even a butler with a tape recorder...

In past episodes: Outraged by the alleged one billion euros in gifts that photographer and socialite François-Marie Banier has apparently managed to extract from elderly Liliane Bettencourt, allegedly with the connivence of her wealth manager Patrice de Maistre, and possibly alarmed by the rumors that she was set to adopt Banier, her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt, launched legal proceedings against Banier and de Maistre for "abuse of frailty", and tried to get her mother legally incapacitated.

The lawsuit, however, became apparently stuck in the offices of a prosecutor with close links to the governing party. Bitter personal recriminations between the Bettencourts as well as their lawyers ensued, and culminated when 100 hours of secret recordings by the elder Bettencourt's butler were handed over to the police by her daughter, and simultaneously leaked online. The recordings revealed the greed of Banier and de Maistre, but, most embarrassingly for the government, the close links of de Maistre with Eric Woerth, current Minister of Labour and previous Minister of the Budget, and simultaneously treasurer of the governing party. Not only did de Maistre employ Woerth's wife, which according to the tapes was no coincidence, but there was also significant evidence of tax evasion and possibly illegal campaign contributions. Woerth is now fighting for his political life, and even French president Nicolas Sarkozy is badly hurt by the scandal. Banier and de Maistre apparently managed to win the sympathy of the government not only with campaign contributions, but also by convincing Woerth and Sarkozy that the daughter intended to sell L'Oréal, pride of the French economy, to minority shareholder Nestlé of Switzerland.

In today's episode: half the cast is arrested.
posted by Skeptic (25 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
next week on Développement Arrêté
posted by The Whelk at 4:41 PM on July 15, 2010 [27 favorites]


Burn, Berlin Paris, burn.

OK, no one is burning anything yet, but the whole world of high fashion and higher costs of living (and the grotesque ties into the heartstrings and hopes of so many women and little girls) make me angry beyond reason. Nothing really disastrous will happen, of course, just a little of their private drama made public, but I can hope that some houses built on fashion will crumble.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:55 PM on July 15, 2010


Man, the lawyers are always feuding. just once they need to be the ones enjoying the paradise island.
posted by The World Famous at 5:03 PM on July 15, 2010


So we need to thinkabout the kind of trashy, super-saturated melodrama movie this story will create.

I'll go first.

"COVER UP: The story of the L'Oreal Bettencourts."
posted by The Whelk at 5:23 PM on July 15, 2010


"Forget the Ewings, the Carringtons, or the Channings and Giobertis..."

Whew! My Colbys are still in play!
posted by mreleganza at 5:27 PM on July 15, 2010


COVER UP: The story of the L'Oreal Bettencourts.

Tagline: "There IS no concealer for these cosmetic problems!"
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:29 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suppose they might be evil or something.

Mostly these kinds of things read to me like exotic nature programs. I'm not prepared to claim I'm better or worse than these creatures, but I sure am different.

As usual, the mating habits are the most exciting part.
posted by poe at 5:34 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


L'O(l)réally?
posted by oonh at 5:42 PM on July 15, 2010


What The Butler Heard. 5p, gentlemen only.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:50 PM on July 15, 2010


I've been following this lately on Le Monde, Le Figaro, and the French version of Slate. The whole thing is obviously an extreme example of utter corruption among the political, the financial, and the aristocratic/judicial/bureaucratic class. The journalistic cowardice is also noteworthy. It took a website [Mediapart] to bring this to light.

Eva Joly, who took Elf to court, is pretty unambiguous about the judge's bias here.
posted by Dumsnill at 5:57 PM on July 15, 2010


her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt, launched legal proceedings against Banier and de Maistre for "abuse of frailty", and tried to get her mother legally incapacitated.

This happened to my friend's family, well without the Sarkozy and the butlers, etc. The grandmother was elderly and all of a sudden a distant relative appeared, hat in hand. Everyone knew it would be Trouble, but what can you do? So everyone bit their lips as the electronics and new clothes started to appear. Tensions began to rise when it became apparent that the distant relative was badmouthing and making up stories about the rest of the family, classic emotional manipulation. But again it is her money and the best you can do is be there and support her, she was after all, an adult.

Eventually the distant relative tried to get to get the house in his name and that sort of precipitated the end. The grandmother's children went to the doctor and almost immediately got a diagnosis of dementia and power of attorney. She still wanted to setup an apartment for a year for the bum and to the family's credit, they fulfilled her wishes and paid it out for part of the year (he got kicked out after a bender with prostitutes, at which point they told him to politely fuck off).

And this was for peanuts compared to the Bettencourt drama. I'd be really surprised if this wasn't more common. I do have to say I was really surprised to see that the System worked. No one questioned the family's motives when they finally put everything in motion and if you have a rap sheet, for better or for worse, the cops (and the doctor) aren't going to take your word over someone who has their life together.

But yeah, I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Really a shitty situation all around.
posted by geoff. at 6:01 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


*The prosecutor, not the judge, obviously.
posted by Dumsnill at 6:05 PM on July 15, 2010


Man, the lawyers are always feuding. just once they need to be the ones enjoying the paradise island.

Psst. The always feuding part IS our paradise island.
posted by sallybrown at 6:32 PM on July 15, 2010


Ahem! Santa Barbara. Mason and Julia.

I rest my case.

Philistines!
posted by Splunge at 6:37 PM on July 15, 2010


Crossroads: Sandy Richardson was injured in a car accident and left confined to a wheelchair, actor Roger Tonge himself later ended up in a wheelchair. Roger Tonge was a cousin of Dale Griffin, drummer of rock band Mott the Hoople. Circus freak show!!!
posted by unliteral at 7:24 PM on July 15, 2010


tried to get her mother legally incapacitated

A few short centuries ago, it would've been "legally decapitated".
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:36 PM on July 15, 2010


I heard just a little bit about Bettencourt giving bribes to various conservative politicians (including Sarkozy) last week, then this week I heard that Sarkozy was pushing austerity measures in response to the monetary crisis.

And I thought, "What an enormous surprise!"
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:15 PM on July 15, 2010


It seems so perfect that France is enmeshed in a scandal involving cosmetics money. Mais bien sûr there is a delicious backstory involving the war, fascists, and whitewashed identities. Talk about your cover-up make-up!
posted by dhartung at 9:36 PM on July 15, 2010


Previous ventures into politics have rarely gone well for figures associated with L'Oréal.
posted by gimonca at 9:40 PM on July 15, 2010


Too bad Molière is long gone. This story would make a great staged farce. Mon Dieu, those drama queens the French take scandal to a whole new level.

I heard about this on a podcast earlier this week. I was particularly stunned at the part about the politicians who would go to dinner at a certain socialite's home and would each be handed, on their way out, an envelope full of cash. It was an open "secret". I guess for her it was just part of the cost of entertaining, and for the politicians it was like getting really nice party favors.

and there's got to be a joke somewhere in this mess about letting them eat (pan)cake (makeup)...sorry, I'll show myself out now
posted by fuse theorem at 10:34 PM on July 15, 2010


"The very idea that I went to Mme Bettencourt to get money in envelopes … it's shameful," he (Sarkozy) told a France 2 interviewer. "And it's a waste of time, when there are more important issues."

Yeah, but note that he never denies taking any money in envelopes. All he does is go on and on about how shameful the accusations are, but never does he say I did not take money from that woman.

... which he can't, because he is obviously guilty as charged and fears that someone can prove it.
posted by sour cream at 11:25 PM on July 15, 2010


L'Oréal, pride of the French economy

That tells us all we need to know about the French economy, non?
posted by deep thought sunstar at 12:25 AM on July 16, 2010


That tells us all we need to know about the French economy, non?

It tells me a bit about you.
posted by Wolof at 1:46 AM on July 16, 2010


That tells us all we need to know about the French economy, non?

Innovative, global, and highly profitable? My, the French will be flattered.
(If you meant "in the business of selling overpriced woo to gullible customers", let me remind you Apple Computer...
posted by Skeptic at 2:32 AM on July 16, 2010


Skeptic: Forget the Ewings, the Carringtons, or the Channings and Giobertis

Over my dead body.

(which will come back to life during next year's sweeps)

Seriously though, as somebody who would use his dying breath to defend the right of anyone, even supposed intellectuals, to love their "stories" -- this is pretty awesome. It's like the personal version of the real History vs. History Channel post last week; truth will out-ridiculous fiction every single time.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:44 AM on July 16, 2010


« Older Mortal Kombat vs. Donkey Kong, Mortal Kombat vs. O...  |  Aphex Twin covered...on steel ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments