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Billionaire Bettencourt unaware of fortune: report

Matthew Warren · 22 Jul 2011, 08:19

Published: 22 Jul 2011 10:03 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Jul 2011 08:19 GMT+02:00

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The transcript of a conversation between billionaire Liliane Bettencourt and a judge has revealed the 88-year old has little awareness of recent investments or even the scale of her fortune.

The report, published on Thursday by weekly magazine Le Point, uses extracts from a meeting held on July 11th between Bettencourt and the judge Stéphanie Kass-Danno. It sheds more light on disputes over whether Mrs Bettencourt is able to take care of her own finances.

In the interview, Bettencourt does not appear to have any recollection of investments made in her name, including the €143 million in Lov Group Invest (LGI), an online gaming company founded by Stéphane Courbit. The deal was finalised in December 2010.

According to the transcript, the judge asked: "Do you remember investing a large sum of money recently?" Bettencourt replied: "No, I don't have any large sums to invest."

It was this investment that caused the most recent escalation in hostilities within the Bettencourt family. In June, the billionaire's daughter, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, expressed concern that some of her mother's close advisers were not working in her best interests. She was particularly concerned that Courbit had the same lawyer, Pascal Wilhelm, as her mother. 

The judge asked Bettencourt about her knowledge of Stéphane Courbit. "Do you know Mr Courbit?" she asked.

"That doesn't ring a bell. Those important questions, that's Pascal," replied Bettencourt, referring to Wilhelm. Courbit claimed in an interview with Le Figaro in June that he had met Liliane Bettencourt to talk about the investment.

The long-running Bettencourt saga began in 2007 when Meyers-Bettencourt accused the society photographer François-Marie Banier of exploiting her mother and sued him for "abuse of weakness." The mother and daughter reconciled in December 2010 but recent events have once again caused the two to fall out.

Bettencourt's lawyer, Pascal Wilhelm, was himself cleared by the Paris bar of any conflict of interest in a report published last week.


Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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