Francois Marie Banier
- Category : Writers-Fiction
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Small (9,16,41,57)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Service 2
French novelist, gigolo, playwright, artist, actor and photographer. He is particularly known for his photographs of celebrities and other public figures and for his friendships with members of high society, most notable Liliane Bettencourt, 25 years his senior.
Despite his modest background, from an early age he was a precocious and hyperactive talent, who was able to develop friendships with some of Paris’ wealthiest arts patrons and artists. At the age of 16, he met Salvador Dalí, who would send his car to bring Mr Banier to his suite at the Hotel Meurice to discuss art. At the age of 19, he befriended the wealthy heiress and patron of the arts Marie-Laure de Noailles who was then 64.
He published his first novel, Les Résidences secondaires ou la Vie distraite (Second Homes or Distracted Life), at the age of 22. Around the same time, a well-known Parisian designer and antique dealer Madeleine Castaing (who was 75 at the time) helped him launch a career in photography by purchasing a dozen of his photographs for 70,000 francs.
Over the years, Mr Banier befriended many well-known public figures and celebrities, including Pablo Picasso, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Françoise Sagan, Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Horowitz, Louis Aragon, François Mitterrand, Kate Moss, Mick Jagger and Princess Caroline of Monaco. He is also a good friend of Johnny Depp and his wife Vanessa Paradis, who met at his home in the south of France. Mr Banier is godfather of their daughter, Lily-Rose.
In the 1970s, Mr Banier shared a studio with designer Jacques Grange on rue Servandoni near Luxembourg Gardens. Over the years, he acquired his own studio on rue Servandoni and gradually combined it with adjacent apartments until he was able to open a second entrance on rue de Vaugirard. He now shares these quarters with actor Pascal Greggory and his nephew Martin d’Orgeval. Mr Banier also owns a home in Sommières, France.
Relationship with Liliane Bettencourt
In 1987, he was commissioned to photograph Liliane Bettencourt and Federico Fellini for the French magazine Egoiste. Ms Bettancourt is one of the principal shareholders of L'Oréal and one of the wealthiest persons in the world with an estimated fortune of US$20 billion. Over the ensuing years, Mr Banier and Ms Bettencourt became friends and she became his chief benefactor, bestowing gifts upon him estimated to be worth as much as €1.3 billion. These gifts include, amongst other things, a life insurance policy worth €253 million in 2003, another life insurance policy worth €262 million in 2006, 11 works of art in 2001 valued at €20 million, including paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Delaunay and Léger and a photograph by surrealist Man Ray and cash. The life insurance policies were allegedly signed over to Mr Banier after Ms Bettencourt was recovering from two hospital stays in 2003 and 2006.
In December 2007, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, the daughter of Ms Bettencourt, lodged a criminal complaint against Mr Banier, accusing him of abus de faiblesse (or the exploitation of a physical or psychological weakness for personal gain) over Ms Bettencourt. As a result of her complaint the financial investigative arm of the French national police, opened in investigation and, after interviewing members of Ms Bettencourt’s staff, determined to present the case to a court in Nanterre for trial in September 2009. The court delayed ruling on the case until July 2010) pending the results of a medical examination of Ms Bettencourt’s mental state. However, Ms Bettencourt refused to submit to these examinations.
In July 2010, the trial was adjourned again until autumn 2010, at the earliest, after details of tape recordings made by Ms Bettencourt’s butler became public. The tapes allegedly reveal that Ms Bettencourt had made Mr Banier her “sole heir” (excluding the L'Oréal shares which make up the bulk of Ms Bettencourt’s estate and which have already been signed over to her daughter and two grandsons). Bettencourt has since removed Banier from her will.