A group of small shareholders in L'Oreal called on Wednesday for heiress Liliane Bettencourt to resign from the cosmetic giant's board of directors amid reports that the 89-year-old has a brain disease.
The APPAC association said the resignation was necessary as shareholders had not been informed of her mental state when they renewed her mandate for four years at the company's annual general meeting on April 22.
The call comes amid a bitter feud between Bettencourt and her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, and after doctors reportedly said the heiress was unable to run her affairs and should be placed under legal guardianship.
"APPAC is surprised by the legal action expedited by (Bettencourt-Meyers) with a view to having her placed under enhanced legal guardianship for medical reasons that were known well before the meeting without shareholders being informed," said a statement.
The association pointed out that the Bettencourts are L'Oreal's main shareholders ahead of Swiss conglomerate Nestle and that the renewal of her mandate was approved by 97 percent of those who voted.
APPAC called "on Mrs Liliane Bettencourt to resign her mandate on L'Oreal's board of directors and for the company to name an independent board member to represents either employees or individual shareholders.
"This is necessary to avoid any judicial procedure to have the vote renewing Mrs Bettecourt's mandate annulled," the statement said.
A source told AFP on Tuesday that court-appointed doctors said Bettencourt has a brain disease, is unable to run her affairs and must be placed under enhanced legal guardianship.
Bettencourt-Meyers has also taken legal action alleging that her mother is prey to hangers-on who want to defraud her.
Bettencourt, France's richest woman, "must be given a measure of protection in carrying out her civil life, regarding her patrimony and personal affairs, in the form an enhanced legal guardianship," the medical report said.
The type of "enhanced legal guardianship" recommended by the doctors would allow the appointed guardian to oversee Bettencourt's spending but falls short of granting the guardian the status of a full legal trustee.
Bettencourt's fortune is estimated at around 15 billion euros ($21.7 billion).