Mr. Banier, who faced up to three years in prison, vehemently denied the daughter’s accusations and brushed off the retainers’ criticisms with literary references to Molière and a play by Jean Genet about maids plotting against a rich employer. “These are people who take revenge for a life they don’t have,” he said.
In May 2015, the court convicted Mr. Banier of abuse and money laundering and sentenced him to three years in prison, of which six months were suspended. He was also ordered to pay 158 million euros, or $173 million, in damages and a fine equivalent to about $418,000.
The Butler Was Taping
In 2010, the family soap opera also exploded into a government scandal after tape recordings secretly made by the dowager’s butler, and accusations by a former family accountant, suggested that Mrs. Bettencourt had kept $98 million in secret Swiss bank accounts, evaded taxes, given envelopes of cash to cabinet ministers and made illegal campaign contributions to Nicolas Sarkozy shortly before his election to the French presidency in 2007.
Mr. Sarkozy denied any improprieties, but he lost the presidency to the Socialist François Hollande in 2012, and with it his official immunity from prosecution. He was placed under formal investigation, suspected of having taken advantage of Mrs. Bettencourt’s mental frailty to obtain campaign funds. However, French magistrates dropped the inquiry in 2013.
While she remained in the background most of her life, Mrs. Bettencourt had long tried to live down the stains of anti-Semitic activities and Nazi associations by her father and husband before and during World War II: a well-documented record of propaganda writings and material support for fascist groups, some of whose followers found refuge after the war at L’Oréal.
Regal, extroverted, a tireless socialite who loved balls and dinner parties, jewels and haute couture, Mrs. Bettencourt was ranked by Forbes this year as the richest woman in the world, with her net worth put at $39.5 billion. She was the majority shareholder of L’Oréal, the world’s largest, most powerful cosmetics company.
She was the only child of Eugène Schueller, a chemist who, in the kitchen of his Paris apartment in 1907, created a hair dye he called Auréale. His business, renamed L’Oréal in 1939,…