Family of French perfumer Guerlain embroiled in bitter legal battle

The partner of Jean-Paul Guerlain accused the famous perfumer's son of waging a "harassment war" against her and of threatening her on several occasions.

Family of French perfumer Guerlain embroiled in bitter legal battle
The Guerlain boutique on the Champs-Elyees in Paris. Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

Stephane Guerlain, the only son of Jean-Paul Guerlain, was summoned to court in Versailles, outside Paris, by Christina Kragh Michelsen, his father’s companion. However, he was not present and was represented by his lawyer.

The hearing was the latest judicial episode in the battle between Kragh, a 64-year-old French-Danish woman, and Stephane Guerlain, son of the man who ran Guerlain – one of the world’s oldest perfume houses – for almost half a century.

Jean-Paul Guerlain, 85, one of the richest men in France, now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Kragh has been with him since 2005.

Kragh was acquitted last autumn by a court of “neglecting a person incapable of protecting himself”. The public prosecutor has appealed against this acquittal.

The woman’s lawyer said that Guerlain’s son is driven by his hatred for his client and wants to “break her down” by waging a “permanent harassment war”.

When Stephane Guerlain “arrives in the house, he follows me everywhere”, said Kragh. He takes unilateral decisions such as “turning off the heating” in their property in a Paris suburb, she added.

Kragh has no “financial interest” in staying with Guerlain senior, but is doing so “out of love”, said her lawyer Frederic Belot. She has “lost sleep, lost a lot of weight” and suffers from “psychological problems”, he added.

Stephane Guerlain’s defence team described their client as “an extremely tired man who has been trying for 10 years to protect his father’s interests”.

The court listened to a recording in which Stephane Guerlain, a lawyer, called Kragh a “bitch” and a “scumbag” and threatened, according to her, to “put her head in a haystack”.

Kragh is seeking €70,000 in damages.    

The public prosecutor’s office did not agree with the plaintiff, noting that several of the claims were unsubstantiated.

The court will deliver its decision on Friday.

French luxury giant LVMH took over the Guerlain brand in 1994. Jean-Paul Guerlain remained as master perfumer until he retired in 2002.

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