It's the mother-daughter spat that has gripped the French cosmetics world. The family who control the beauty giant L'Oreal have brought a whole knew meaning to the slogan "because you're worth it" as they row over money and generous gifts to a jet-set photographer.
In the latest twist of the long-running family dispute, it emerged yesterday that Liliane Bettencourt, the 86-year-old principal L'Oreal shareholder and one of the world's richest women, had accepted being tested by a psychiatrist to prove that she has not lost her mind.
Bettencourt's daughter, Françoise, had brought a legal complaint over her mother's generous gifts to a Parisian society photographer and author, suggesting her elderly mother was weak, open to "abuse" and might not have the mental faculties to understand what she was doing.
Over a number of years, Bettencourt, a philanthropist who has a vast private art collection including works by Monet, Matisse and Miro, is said to have given gifts to the photographer, François-Marie Banier, 61, worth up to €1bn (£890m).
In an interview last year with the Journal du Dimanche, Bettencourt shot back that she had bequeathed almost all of her fortune to her daughter, who would inherit it after she died, but that she could spend her money as she wished. She said she had not been coerced into making any gifts. She said the legal case was "stupid", that she got on well with her friend Banier as he was "an artist" and "artists see things differently". She said her daughter was just "jealous". The mother and daughter relationship had broken down years ago. Bettencourt said her daughter should understand that she was a "free woman".
Until now Bettencourt has refused to submit to a psychiatrists' assessment demanded by the state prosecutor. But Le Figaro reported yesterday that she had chosen an independent psychiatrist to assess her and a report had been given to the prosecutor testifying that she was in a "perfect" state of mind. However, the prosecutor is now demanding an additional report by a panel of psychiatry experts, including one of his own choice.