The Bettencourt Affair
Was the world s wealthiest woman Liliane Bettencourt heir to an estimated thirty-six-billion-dollar L Oreal fortune, the victim of a con man? Or were her own family the real villains? This riveting narrative tells the real-life, shocking story behind the cause celebre that has captivated both France and the world. Liliane Bettencourt is the world s richest woman and the eleventh wealthiest person on the planet, as of 2016. But at ninety-four, she s embroiled in an incredible controversy that has dominated the headlines and ensnared a former president of France in the controversy. Why? Thanks to an artist and photographer named Francois-Marie Banier, who was given hundreds of millions of dollars by Liliane. Liliane s daughter, Francoise, considers Banier a con man and filed a lawsuit against him, but Banier has a far different story to tell. It s all become Europe s biggest scandal in years, uncovering a shadowy corporate history, buried World War II secrets, illicit political payoffs, and much more. Written by Tom Sancton, aVanity Faircontributor and formerTimecorrespondent currently living in France, The Bettencourt Affairis part courtroom drama; part upstairs-downstairs tale; part business narrative of a glamorous global company with past Nazi connections; and part character-driven story of a complex, fascinating family and the intruder who nearly tore it apart."

The Bettencourt Affair Details

TitleThe Bettencourt Affair
Author
ReleaseAug 8th, 2017
PublisherDutton Books
ISBN-139781101984475
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Cultural, France, History, Crime, True Crime, Biography, Mystery

The Bettencourt Affair Review

  • Gwen - Chew & Digest Books -
    January 1, 1970
    The Bettencourt Affair is hard to give a star rating to. Like the French attitude that it mentions, it's hard to feel sympathy for the ultra-rich when there are so many people that live in poverty. On the other hand, the view into just how different the French justice system is from the U.S. was fascinating. Also, learning more about the WWII machinations of L'Oreal's founder, Eugène Schueller, was eye-opening and while I am all for the idea that the kids are not responsible for the parent's foi The Bettencourt Affair is hard to give a star rating to. Like the French attitude that it mentions, it's hard to feel sympathy for the ultra-rich when there are so many people that live in poverty. On the other hand, the view into just how different the French justice system is from the U.S. was fascinating. Also, learning more about the WWII machinations of L'Oreal's founder, Eugène Schueller, was eye-opening and while I am all for the idea that the kids are not responsible for the parent's foibles, I honestly don't think I will ever look at their products the same way again and already wasn't in the habit of buying them because there are other product lines that I like better. While not important to the case, I'm offended that Lillian just accepted her father's racism and still adored his memory, especially after her only child married a Jewish man. Call me crazy, but all of that money given to some useless gadfly could have done so much more trying to educate people of our terrible history of racism and attempt to open their hearts to all. Lastly, there is family strife and Alzheimer's. As Tolstoy said, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The person in my family that was the strongest, that we all respected, and looked to for direction was laid low by Alzheimer's. Lillian Bettencourt seems to have been an even powerful force now laid low by the same disease. While it seemed like money grubbing to many, I applaud her daughter for her years of work and court cases. I wish they could have found more common ground when they were both younger and it mattered, but in the end, her daughter was protecting her mom. I can't fault that.The book was ultimately readable and as I said, the wheels of French justice are so different from ours, that it was interesting. My only complaint is that there were a lot of players in this saga, however, Sancton did a really great job of keeping them all straight for his readers without being condescending or a creating a flowchart. In the end, there was a lot more to like than to dislike, so I gave it 4 stars. Most non-fiction isn't for every reader and this is true here, but that doesn't mean it is a "meh" book.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    A Great Fortune, A Lonely Woman, A Con-man, and a Jealous DaughterLiliane Bettencourt, heir to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune, is one of the world’s richest women. Married to Andre Bettencourt, a politican, Liliane became tired of her bourgeois life. She met and was attracted to Francois-Marie Banier. Banier was an artist and photographer and a member of artistic society that fascinated Liliane. Infatuated with him, she presented him with hundreds of millions of euros worth of real estate, painti A Great Fortune, A Lonely Woman, A Con-man, and a Jealous DaughterLiliane Bettencourt, heir to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune, is one of the world’s richest women. Married to Andre Bettencourt, a politican, Liliane became tired of her bourgeois life. She met and was attracted to Francois-Marie Banier. Banier was an artist and photographer and a member of artistic society that fascinated Liliane. Infatuated with him, she presented him with hundreds of millions of euros worth of real estate, paintings, and cash. Andre didn’t complain about the money. He said it was her’s to do as she wished. Liliane’s daughter, Francoise, thought differently about Banier and the family fortune believing that he was taking advantage of her mother. She had not been particularly close to her mother, probably because Liliane was not a maternal person and was absent during the early years of Francoise’s life taking a tuberculosis cure, The rupture never healed. When Liliane started becoming confused. (She is presently suffering from Alzheimer’s.) Francoise filed a law suit against Banier. The lawsuit devolved into a major scandal involving corporate secrets, WWII relations with the Nazis, Swiss Bank accounts, and political payoffs. This is a fascinating book. The unusual characters, tangled emotions, and high level political maneuvering makes the book read more like fiction than history. The book is very well researched, going in depth on the background of the characters as well as the trial. For me, the book started rather slowly with the history of the L’Oréal Company founded by her father Charles Schueller, a brilliant chemist and business man. This history is important to the rest of the story, so it’s necessary in order to understand the later trial, but it did make the early chapters slow when you’re interested in the scandalous trial. I received this book from Net Galley for this review.
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  • Billie
    January 1, 1970
    Rich people. Their problems are really not "just like yours," but they are fascinating reading.
  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting story about the family that started L'Oréal. Unfortunately, they had connections or were Nazi sympathizers... but all that is the backdrop for the story of Lillian, the only daughter of the founder and her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers. Lillian gifted millions to a friend, Francois-Marie Banier. while the daughter felt he was taking advantage. You know what comes next.. lawyers and years of court battles and scandals with connections to France's Prime Minister, Sarkovy and o Interesting story about the family that started L'Oréal. Unfortunately, they had connections or were Nazi sympathizers... but all that is the backdrop for the story of Lillian, the only daughter of the founder and her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers. Lillian gifted millions to a friend, Francois-Marie Banier. while the daughter felt he was taking advantage. You know what comes next.. lawyers and years of court battles and scandals with connections to France's Prime Minister, Sarkovy and other high level officials. Sad, by the time it was all said and done, Lillian had Alzheimer’s and the thing she feared most... having a guardian appointed by her daughter was the end result. The love of money...
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  • Phyllis Bismanovsky
    January 1, 1970
    Amazing. The richest woman in the world and I never heard of her. The head of the L'Oreal empire. So Nazi implications, a gigolo, a husband consort who may be gay, a daughter who marries a Jewish man, political insinuations of graft and corruption. And it's all true! What an amazing cast of characters. So well written.
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  • Rhonda Lomazow
    January 1, 1970
    Money money money unbelievable wealth happiness not so much law suits oh yes.A delicious soap opera of money art inheritance made even more delicious this is all true,Thanks to Net Galley&Dutton books for free Galley for honest review,
  • Geetanjali Mukherjee
    January 1, 1970
    * I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*This book was difficult to read, primarily for two reasons. The writing is dense, full of facts, sometimes overly so. Also, reading about characters who it was impossible to like or feel much sympathy for, I had to put the book down and do something else or read something else to cleanse my palate of a story of greed, jealousy, corruption and immorality. Sure, the lives of the uber rich may not be the same as * I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*This book was difficult to read, primarily for two reasons. The writing is dense, full of facts, sometimes overly so. Also, reading about characters who it was impossible to like or feel much sympathy for, I had to put the book down and do something else or read something else to cleanse my palate of a story of greed, jealousy, corruption and immorality. Sure, the lives of the uber rich may not be the same as ours, but the scale of disparity, with no redeeming features, was not always fun to read.  Having said that, the book is meticulously researched and very well-written. I also found that the pace picked up, and I flew through the last third of the book. I also learned a great deal about French laws and cultural norms and perhaps some of the seedy reality behind the façade of luxury and style.
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  • Elena
    January 1, 1970
    ***Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review***I was not familiar with the Bettencourt Affair or any of the people involved before reading Scanton's latest book. I was also reading this as an e-book which is why I may have found the beginning of the story to be confusing. Scanton has generously included a list of characters and brief descriptions in the back of the book which would've made my journey smoother if I noticed it earlier. Overall, a well-res ***Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review***I was not familiar with the Bettencourt Affair or any of the people involved before reading Scanton's latest book. I was also reading this as an e-book which is why I may have found the beginning of the story to be confusing. Scanton has generously included a list of characters and brief descriptions in the back of the book which would've made my journey smoother if I noticed it earlier. Overall, a well-researched and non-biased look at a recent European controversy.
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  • Jill Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    Let me tell you, the drama is thick on the ground in this one… So is the detail. At times, that detail made the book a bit overwhelming. I do not follow French politics or business, so did not know the vast majority of the names thrown about in the first portion of the book. The background on the origins of L’Oreal, while interesting to a point, was rather lengthy to my mind. The collaborationist nature of Eugène Schueller (the company’s founder) and his Nazi/Vichy sympathies made for interestin Let me tell you, the drama is thick on the ground in this one… So is the detail. At times, that detail made the book a bit overwhelming. I do not follow French politics or business, so did not know the vast majority of the names thrown about in the first portion of the book. The background on the origins of L’Oreal, while interesting to a point, was rather lengthy to my mind. The collaborationist nature of Eugène Schueller (the company’s founder) and his Nazi/Vichy sympathies made for interesting reading – again, to a point – but it too felt a bit over-detailed. The drama is real in both of those portions of the book, don’t get me wrong. But it is far eclipsed by the familial relationships – and then, in what was to me the most intriguing part of the book, by the legal battle(s).The casual attitude toward money – BIG money – which lies at the heart of this story is, quite literally, unfathomable to me. Tens and hundreds of millions of Euros are thrown around with nary the blink of an eye. The L’Oreal fortune is vast even in an era of Big Business money, and Liliane’s sole control of it is rather mind-blowing. She and her husband Andre buy apartments, islands, and (it turns out) politicians with what should be seen as reckless abandon but is instead generally viewed as a regular Tuesday afternoon… When Banier enters the picture, Liliane is older and seemingly jaded by her wealth and life. He injects art, celebrity, vivacity, and a whole new appreciation for what money can buy into a life that, frankly, seems to have become a bit of a chore for the heiress. To Liliane, he is a savior. To her daughter and many of those around her, though, he is something rather different…The crusade against Banier was the most interesting part of the book for me. I am a lawyer, and although I was never a litigator, litigation and the machinations behind it have always intrigued me. The French judicial system (as with so many French institutions) is different from the American, and seeing how those differences played out (and imagining how they might have gone, had this been a domestic issue) was fascinating to me. The level of detail in these sections of the book was, in all fairness, likely the same as for the others I mentioned earlier, but here the detail felt more appropriate and more engaging. That is likely my interest bias, rather than an actual distinction of merit. Still, from the opening salvos, I found the tale of the legal battles to be most engaging and to read like a legal thriller – particularly with the incorporation of the political elements dragging then-French President Sarkozy into the mix. And just like a legal thriller, when it seemed like things were finally coming together in resolution, the indomitable French judiciary stepped in with a curve ball: French law allows magistrates to unilaterally decide that a case is not over, even if the parties have agreed that it is, if they think laws have been broken. And so it continued until, finally and almost rather anticlimactically despite its lengthy disposition, the storm blew itself it out and everything stopped – leaving, quite literally, death, shattered reputations, and devastation in its wake.This was a long, drawn-out, Affair – and so, the book. Between the law, the politics (both national and familial), and the personalities, the Bettencourt Affair was a hot mess of deception, he said/she said, scandalous whispers and bitter recriminations from start to finish – and even before and after those. It made for some very entertaining (and often jaw-droppingly unbelievable) reading – but it was also exhausting, and truth be told, I was glad when I finally reached the end. The jealousy, the back-biting, the secrets – I wouldn’t put myself in any of these people’s shoes for all the money in their pockets (and Swiss bank accounts, and hidden tax shelters, and private islands)… If ever anyone needed proof that money doesn’t buy happiness, this would be the tale to show them. This is, more than anything, a tale of frustrated and unreturned feelings: if Eugene had been a different father to Liliane, would she in turn have been a different mother and not felt the need to keep doling out gifts to Banier – a man who, himself, had an indifferent mother and abusive father? Does the whole Affair lie at the feet of jealousy and little-lost-child feelings that the major parties were never able to overcome? Or is it simply a tale of greed and power and the desperate land-grabs by so many for a piece of the L’Oreal fortune? Theories abound, but remain theories. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle (as it so often does), varying depending on who you ask (again, as it so often does). The story raises as many questions as it answers, so if you are looking for a tidy resolution, you’ll likely be frustrated by it. But if you are intrigued by interpersonal politics and the war of personalities, this one may just be for you…
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  • Penny (Literary Hoarders)
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars This was a fascinating read. Oh my word they have so much money no one knows what to do with it. Like billions and billions of dollars! Liliane fell for this gay man, Francois-Marie Banier and funnelled all kinds of money to him in gifts, real estate, villas, apartments, cars, artwork, insurance policies (some valued at 650 million euros!). Gifts totalling one billion euros. The only daughter of Liliane called bullsh*t and started a law suit against Banier claiming he was taking adva 3.5 stars This was a fascinating read. Oh my word they have so much money no one knows what to do with it. Like billions and billions of dollars! Liliane fell for this gay man, Francois-Marie Banier and funnelled all kinds of money to him in gifts, real estate, villas, apartments, cars, artwork, insurance policies (some valued at 650 million euros!). Gifts totalling one billion euros. The only daughter of Liliane called bullsh*t and started a law suit against Banier claiming he was taking advantage of her mother (Liliane is now completely lost to Alzheimers) and tried to shut the taps off. Was this so she could control her mother and sell out L'Oreal to Nestle? Or was this just jealousy of Banier - someone her mother loved more than her, or was she sincerely concerned he was taking advantage of her. This opened the doors to a major scandal involving French presidents and revealed just how many people were taking advantage of Liliane Bettencourt. So much money, a ridiculous amount of money. Towards the end, the repitition of Banier and his exploitive behaviour, Francoise's jealousy and Liliane's mental state became too much, but overall a very interesting look into the lives of people with far too much money to know what to do with it. (Oh the amount of good this money could do in the world....instead of buying more villas, creating infighting, jewellery requiring a bank vault that is the size of most people's homes...) I'm hesitant, oh so hesitant to buy L'Oreal products knowing it's history of its founder (Nazi) and the fact I did not read in any part of these pages about any goodwill being done with the billions and billions in euros L'Oreal makes annually.
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  • Rita Welty Bourke
    January 1, 1970
    This is the story of the unconventional relationship between Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the L’Oreal fortune, and Francois-Marie Banier, writer, photographer, and artist twenty-five years younger than Liliane. The scandal that unfolded as a result of that relationship made headlines in Paris for nearly a decade. During the course of their friendship, Liliane showered Banier with gifts of money, art, insurance policies, and various other assets in an amount believed to approach a billion dollars This is the story of the unconventional relationship between Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the L’Oreal fortune, and Francois-Marie Banier, writer, photographer, and artist twenty-five years younger than Liliane. The scandal that unfolded as a result of that relationship made headlines in Paris for nearly a decade. During the course of their friendship, Liliane showered Banier with gifts of money, art, insurance policies, and various other assets in an amount believed to approach a billion dollars. She could afford it. L’Oreal is a company that boasts 82,000 employees in 130 countries. It has annual sales of twenty-four billion Euros. In 2007, Liliane’s only daughter, Francoise Meyers, brought an “abuse of weakness” lawsuit against Banier. The legal maneuverings dragged on for years, and in the process, besmirched political figures, alerted tax authorities, exposed Nazi sympathesizers, uncovered secret Swiss bank accounts, and tore the Bettencourt family apart. It’s a labyrinthine road the reader must travel, and you can’t quit until you learn the outcome of the trial. That comes in the last chapter.
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  • Kam
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes it's nice to read about a scandal that doesn't involve anyone or anything close to my heart, and this fit that bill perfectly. Since no one I care about was involved in the Bettencourt Affair or the upper echelons of French politics or L'Oreal's management, and I myself am most certainly not involved in any of those things, this was quite the entertaining read. Of course because of that distance I'm not entirely sure if Sancton is being absolutely impartial in his reportage, but I like Sometimes it's nice to read about a scandal that doesn't involve anyone or anything close to my heart, and this fit that bill perfectly. Since no one I care about was involved in the Bettencourt Affair or the upper echelons of French politics or L'Oreal's management, and I myself am most certainly not involved in any of those things, this was quite the entertaining read. Of course because of that distance I'm not entirely sure if Sancton is being absolutely impartial in his reportage, but I like to think so.Sancton's narrative style is mostly coherent and easy to follow, though it's occasionally jarring in that he tends to jump back and forth across time and between people. More interesting, however, are Sancton's insights into the French people's attitude to immense wealth, and how that relates to politics.
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  • Niki Wilson
    January 1, 1970
    This book offers the reader tons of fun. It is literally the best drama/reality show and soap opera I've ever read. The names involved are at the peak of French society, fashion and art. So many names (that I knew) were dropped. It's like a history lesson of the ways of the fashion, business and political elite. I would think it was a marvelous work of fiction, if it weren't so well-researched and documented. It's alot to digest, but I will definitely go back and read it again. A thoroughly juic This book offers the reader tons of fun. It is literally the best drama/reality show and soap opera I've ever read. The names involved are at the peak of French society, fashion and art. So many names (that I knew) were dropped. It's like a history lesson of the ways of the fashion, business and political elite. I would think it was a marvelous work of fiction, if it weren't so well-researched and documented. It's alot to digest, but I will definitely go back and read it again. A thoroughly juicy tale!
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  • Suzanne
    January 1, 1970
    Extraordinary detail about a family and company for which I did not know much. Now that I do, I'm not sure I am pleased with the knowledge. Great wealth does not happy families make. Prepare to settle in for a long, involved relationship with them when this book is opened. For lovers of historical nonfiction and dysfunctional families. I received my copy from the p[ublisher through NetGalley.
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  • Beth Ann
    January 1, 1970
    Tom Santon's intensively researched story involving one of the world's wealthiest women is a contemporary embodiment of Fitzgerald's old saw that the very rich are different from you and me. Main distraction to reading this book was contending with the knowledge that it's non-fiction.
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  • Verna LaBounty
    January 1, 1970
    Story of the world's wealthiest woman Liliane Bettencourt heir to an estimated thirty-six-billion-dollar L'Oreal fortune, and the fight for that fortune by her daughter versus Francoise-Marie Banier.Overwhelming detail of history of the individuals involved in the scandal.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    Way too much detail for my taste.
  • Joan
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. The book was very good, but not my typical read. The cast of French "players" is long and sometimes difficult to keep straight
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