Bettencourt saga 'does not impact' L'Oreal: chief executive
The legal cases surrounding L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt do not impinge on the day-to-day business of the cosmetics giant, its chief executive Jean-Paul Agon said in a rare statement Wednesday.
"This issue does not impact company affairs as can be seen by our performance," Agon said in an interview published on the website of the business daily Les Echos.
The group on Wednesday reported a sharp rise of its half-year profit to 1.3 billion euros (1.6 billion dollars).
"We have an unfortunate family affair on one side and a company that works very serenely on the other," he said.
"Its management is intact, with a fully united family as far as board decisions are concerned."
According to press reports L'Oreal unionists are seeking explanations on contracts between the group and the company owned by close Bettencourt friend, celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier, over annual payments of some 710,000 euros.
Agon said he had never received any gifts from 87-year-old Bettencourt.
"Mrs Bettencourt's only gift to me was her trust when she put me in charge of the management of the group which her father created," he said.
Agon was also confident that L'Oreal shareholders would not have to worry about the future, after Peter Brabeck, the chairman of Swiss food giant Nestle which holds 29.8 percent of L'Oreal, said earlier Wednesday he had not decided what to do with the shares.
"Nestle has said it will not increase its shares as long as Mrs Bettencourt lives and recently reiterated that it has no intention of changing its commitment, whatever the circumstances," said Agon.
"Their latest statements do not change these commitments," he added.
Several judicial investigations are under way into affairs linked to Bettencourt's fortune, including allegations of tax evasion and illegal campaign funding that have implicated French Labour Minister Eric Woerth.
Bettencourt's estranged daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers alleges people close to her mother have taken advantage of the heiress, who she claims is no longer in a fit mental state to manage her 16-billion-euro (20-billion-dollar) fortune.
One of the investigations centres on recordings of conversations between Bettencourt and an adviser apparently plotting tax evasion.
© 2010 AFP