THE BILLIONAIRE, BUTLER AND BOYFRIEND: Netflix’s newly released documentary on “the Bettencourt affair” has been met with large viewership.
The three-part series titled “Affaire Bettencourt: scandale chez la femme la plus riche du monde,” or “The Billionaire, The Butler, and The Boyfriend,” traces the tenticular, multiyear saga involving the late L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and the photographer-writer François-Marie Banier. It also featured members of the French government — up to a former president.
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The docuseries, directed by Baptiste Etchegaray and Maxime Bonnet, reportedly became the top-viewed documentary on Netflix in France a day after it went live last week. It appears now on the “Popular on Netflix” listing.
The Bettencourt affair began in December 2007, when Bettencourt’s daughter Françoise Bettencourt Meyers brought a lawsuit against Banier, alleging he had exploited the weakness of her mother, who had given him assets valued at around 1 billion euros. Banier denied any wrongdoing, while Bettencourt, then the world’s wealthiest woman, maintained she was sound and acting of her own free will.
By summer 2010, the Bettencourt affair had reached full boil. It spilled into the governmental arena, when an allegation surfaced that then-labor minister Eric Woerth, while serving as France’s budget minister and UMP party treasurer in 2007, had received from the Bettencourts a campaign donation well above the legal limit for presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy.
The French media was whipped into a lather by successive revelations — not least that Bettencourt’s former butler had secretly taped her conversations with advisers. Those were leaked to the press.
On Dec. 6, 2010, Bettencourt Meyers abandoned all the legal proceedings she had initiated. Bettencourt Meyers and her mother issued a joint statement saying they’d reconciled to end the conflicts that disrupted their family life and had reached a common accord. However, it didn’t stop French judges from continuing to investigate criminal allegations springing from the saga.
Bettencourt passed away in September 2017 at the age of 94.
In 2019, an examining magistrate in Paris dismissed charges brought against Bettencourt Meyers in 2016 by Banier. Allegations of false testimony related to five of Bettencourt’s former employees and a friend were also dropped at the time. That officially closed the Bettencourt affair.
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