The Netflix documentary The Billionaire, The Butler, and The Boyfriend showed us how, in most cases, there are parasites around a person who is at the top of the food chain and how their sole agenda is to take advantage of their misery and their vulnerabilities. When Francois-Marie Banier, the photographer, met Liliane Bettencourt for the very first time, nobody knew the kind of havoc he could wreak on her life. Everybody believed that they both loved spending time with each other, but little did they realize that there was a strategy, a devilish plan, brewing inside Banier’s mind. Probably, Banier knew that it was a very slow process and that he would have to take each step very cautiously to make the richest woman in the world addicted to him, but he was ready for the challenge. Banier knew that if he hit the bullseye, he would amass such a huge amount of wealth that he could literally do anything and have the lifestyle that he had always dreamt of. So, let’s find out how Banier and Liliane came close to each other and how his real intentions came to light.
How did Liliane get close to Banier?
Liliane was no less than royalty, but often, when you are at the top, you feel lonely and crave that love and affection, which you realize that all that money cannot buy. I mean, if you look at it from a third man’s perspective, you would feel that the life led by the richest woman in the world would be one of extreme opulence and be filled with all the happiness that one could ask for. But when you see even such people struggling and going through all sorts of inner turmoil, you realize that though money can help you buy a lot of things, it still can’t satisfy you. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Liliane married the wrong sort of person, one who couldn’t give her what she desired. We are not implying that Andre Bettencourt was a bad man, but he was not suited for her. She wanted somebody who could read her poetry, who could pamper her, who could take her out on romantic dates, and who could express the love they had for her. She craved companionship, but all she got was a man who was like an impervious wall to her, and so she felt abandoned in the hollow corridors of her palace.
In 1987, Liliane met Francois-Marie Banier, who was supposed to photograph her for a French magazine he was working in at the time. Banier’s presence in the palace was like a breath of fresh air. Things were done a certain way inside the four walls of the Bettencourt mansion, but Banier was a nonconformist who, through his informal behavior, broke the monotony, and for a change, Liliane seemed to like his simple, straightforward, and at times crude ways and means. Banier got close to Liliane very quickly, and they started to spend a lot of time together. People could see how happy Liliane was around him, and Andre also didn’t mind his presence. There was a void inside Liliane, and Banier filled that, which was why he became such an indispensable part of her life. She felt free around him; she felt that she was capable of being happy, and she wanted to hold onto that feeling. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that around this time, Liliane was more close to Banier than she was to her daughter or anybody else in her family.
Was Banier taking undue advantage of his position?
In The Billionaire, The Butler, and The Boyfriend, the question that came before the court was whether Banier was taking undue advantage of his position for monetary benefits, and as we all know, they gave the decision against him. Banier had done a lot of things that pointed out that he didn’t have noble intentions, and he was with Liliane for the sole reason that she was a rich woman from whom he could greatly benefit. Francois received gifts worth around 1 billion euros, and any man with a strong conscience and self-respect wouldn’t have ever done that. He went to the extent of asking Liliane to adopt him as his son so that he would challenge the rights of her daughter over her property. There came a point in the documentary, when Banier was not only receiving gifts, but he had also started influencing Liliane to give him other things.
It is true that apart from Banier, Liliane’s entire entourage, from the asset manager, Patrice de Maistre, to the house helpers, were also doing the same thing, but the difference was that they were still workers who were employed there, but the former was considered to be the closest friend that Lillian had. Banier betrayed her trust, and Liliane was blinded by the love she had for him. This was the reason why her daughter felt frustrated, because the situation shouldn’t have arrived at the point where Banier could have a claim over the Bettencourt properties. In her will, which was written by Liliane in 2003, i.e., 4 years before Francoise filed a case, she mentioned that after her death, not only Banier would get a huge amount of money but also the D’Arros Island, in the Seychelles. We believe that had it not come to light that Banier had cheated on a woman named Madeline Castaing in the past, the court would have been able to make a decision that imposed a fine on him and sentenced him to two and a half years in prison.
Where is Francois-Marie Banier now?
We don’t know if Francois ever felt the guilt of deceiving a person who considered herself so close to him, but we know that today, society sees him for who he is. He might have changed his ways and means, and probably has transformed himself, but he was dishonest in the past, and no matter what defense he takes, it is an undeniable fact that he was conscious of what he was doing and what results his actions could bring. He made Liliane feel loved; he made her feel that she existed, and then he wrecked her life, hoping that someday, he would inherit everything she had.
At the end of The Billionaire, The Butler, and The Boyfriend, we saw that Banier appealed for a retrial, and he got one where his sentence was reduced and even the fine was removed. Banier is 76 years old, and he lives in Paris, where he is still working as an artist.