Style | January 16, 2022 6:32 am

A Storied Perfumer Is at the Center of an Elder Abuse Scandal

Conflict within the Guerlain family

Jean-Paul Guerlain
French designer and perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain at home on Porquerolles island.
Thierry PRAT/Sygma via Getty Images

For almost 200 years, Guerlain has been an iconic name in perfume. The company was family-owned until 1994; that year marks the moment when LVMH purchased a controlling stake in it. Now, however, the Guerlain family name is enmeshed in something else — a bitter legal conflict that includes accusations of elder abuse.

A detailed report by Christopher Mason at Air Mail offers a deeper look at the parties involved and the conflict between them. The scandal involves Jean-Paul Guerlain — the last master perfumer in the Guerlain family — as well as his companion, Christina Kragh, and his son, Stéphane Guerlain. Jean-Paul is 85 and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, though the extent to which it has affected his daily life is a matter of some debate among the parties quoted in the report.

Stéphane is 61 and will face criminal charges at a hearing in Versailles next week. He was awarded legal control of his father’s finances in 2018. The charges Stéphane faces are, in Mason’s words, “willful violence, moral harassment, making death threats, and subjecting a vulnerable person to ‘housing conditions incompatible with human dignity.’”

The article notes that Kragh and the elder Guerlain have had relatively strict restrictions placed on their activities and the amount of money that they have access to. Stéphane’s lawyer, Pascal Koerfer, was skeptical of Kragh’s account of events. “Mrs. Kragh thinks she can justify the unjustifiable, by multiplying outrageous and shocking penal procedures; with systematic recourse to media,” Koerfer said.

The situation sounds harrowing on multiple levels. That said, next week’s hearing might bring a greater amount of clarity to the matter — or it could complicate things even more.