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The Bettencourt Affair: The World's Richest Woman and the Scandal That Rocked Paris

The Bettencourt Affair: The World's Richest Woman and the Scandal That Rocked Paris

by Tom Sancton


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An NPR Best Book of 2017

The Bettencourt Affair is part courtroom drama; part upstairs-downstairs tale; and part character-driven story of a complex, fascinating family and the intruder who nearly tore it apart.

At the time of her death at age ninety-four, in September 2017, Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L'Oréal fortune, was the world's richest woman and the fourteenth wealthiest person. But her gilded life took a dark yet fascinating turn in the past decade, when she became embroiled in a scandal that dominated the headlines in France.

The Bettencourt Affair, as it came to be called, started as a family drama but quickly became a massive scandal, uncovering L'Oréal's shadowy corporate history and buried World War II secrets. It all began when Liliane met François-Marie Banier, an artist and photographer who was, in his youth, the toast of Paris and a protégé of Salvador Dalí. Over the next two decades, Banier was given hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts, cash, and insurance policies by Liliane. What, exactly, was their relationship? It wasn't clear, least of all to Liliane's daughter and only child, Françoise, who became suspicious of Banier's motives and filed a lawsuit against him. But Banier has a far different story to tell. . . .

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101984499
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/07/2018
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 117,348
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Tom Sancton was a longtime Paris bureau chief for Time magazine, where he wrote more than fifty cover stories. He first broke the Bettencourt Affair for many American readers with his feature piece in Vanity Fair in 2010. Sancton coauthored the New York Times (and international) bestseller Death of a Princess, a probing investigation of the murky circumstances behind Princess Diana's death. He has also written for Fortune, Reader's Digest, Newsweek, and other leading magazines. A Rhodes scholar who studied at Harvard and Oxford, he is currently a research professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he spends part of the year. In 2014, the French government named Tom Sancton a Chevalier (Knight) of the Order of Arts and Letters.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Excerpted from "The Bettencourt Affair"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Tom Sancton.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Lost in the Fog 1

Part 1 Life Before Banier

1 The Founder 9

2 The Heiress and the Consort 26

3 Poor Little Rich Girl 45

Part 2 Banier Enters the Scene

4 Portrait of the Artist 57

5 Such Good Friends 77

6 Dark Roots 95

7 A Generous Man 104

8 The Christmas Visitor 109

9 The Ambitious Monsieur Sarkozy 116

10 The Whistle-blower 122

Part 3 The Bettencourt Affair

11 The Opening Salvo 141

12 Sibling Rivals 159

13 Sarkozy Joins the Fray 164

14 Metzner's End Run 173

Part 4 The Net Spreads Wider

15 The Butler Did It 185

16 Behind Closed Doors 195

17 The Woerth Affair 207

18 Filthy Rich 215

19 Banier's Année Terrible 221

20 The Fixer 228

Part 5 The Endgame

21 Bordeaux 247

22 Hardball 254

23 A President in the Crosshairs 264

24 Banier Strikes Back 271

25 Life and Death 275

26 The Reckoning 280

27 The Eye of the Beholder 298

28 The Wheels of Justice 308

29 Farewell to Paradise? 317

30 The Verdict 323

Epilogue: Adieu, Liliane 331

Cast of Characters 333

Acknowledgments 339

Notes 341

What People are Saying About This

author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The City of Falling Angels - John Berendt

The Bettencourt Affair reveals the far-reaching tentacles of a sensational family squabble over the $40-billion L'Oréal fortune. The aging cosmetics heiress gave hundreds of millions of dollars to her protégé, who was then charged with criminal manipulation by the woman's embittered daughter and convicted at a trial that also entangled French President Nicholas Sarkozy, a labor minister and others. It's an eye-popping, page-turning read.

author of Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson

This book has it all! Money, class, art, greed, intrigue, seduction, betrayal, and politics. It reads like a novel — a racy and intense thriller — but it's all true. With amazing reporting and wonderful writing, Tom Sancton brings alive the drama of the richest woman in the world, the powerful minister she married, their intellectual daughter, and the audacious artist who may have siphoned off a fortune. Their battles shook France and will fascinate readers.

author of The Lady in Gold - Anne-Marie O'Connor

A riveting, dishy account of one of France's wealthiest families, whose Olympian grasp reaches scandalously deep into the French political world and the government itself. No one who reads this intimate tale of materialism and dangerous liaisons—peppered with political stars and so steeped in paranoia that even a butler makes surreptitious recordings to defend himself—will ever again associate the French upper classes with discretion and understatement.

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