French judge puts L'Oreal heiress under protection

By the Associated Press | October 19, 2011 | 9:35 PM EDT

COURBEVOIE, France (AP) — Lawyers for L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt said a judge on Monday ordered the 88-year-old French billionaire and her fortune placed under the legal protection of her daughter and grandsons

Bettencourt lawyer Jean-Rene Farthouat called the decision by a judge in the western Paris suburb of Courbevoie "profoundly disappointing" and "quite simply criticizable." It goes into effect immediately.

Bettencourt's heirs reportedly are concerned about her health and management of her fortune, estimated at $20 billion by Forbes magazine. She is a major shareholder in cosmetics giant L'Oreal, which was founded by her father Eugene Schueller in 1907.

The daughter, Francoise Meyers-Bettencourt, and her mother have tussled over the management of the fortune, and late last year appeared to end a legal dispute over more than euro1 billion ($1.3 billion).

French daily Le Monde said the judge's decision was based in part on a court-ordered medical examination that found the heiress suffered from "moderately severe" dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

In a recent television interview, Bettencourt sharply criticized the attempts to put her under her daughter's legal guardianship, calling it "a monstrous idiocy."