PARIS -- A French court convicted longtime perfume maker Jean-Paul Guerlain of making racist insults on national television and fined him Thursday (EURO)6,000 ($8,000).
The 75-year-old Guerlain, an heir to his family's cosmetics empire, provoked anger among French minorities with the comments in a 2010 interview on France-2 television. He used a French word for black people in a derogatory way as he described how hard he worked to create one of the company's most famed perfumes.
Several anti-racism groups filed legal complaints, and protests were staged in front of the Guerlain store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris. Some called for a boycott of Guerlain products.
Guerlain apologized to France's black community during the trial, calling it an "imbecilic" remark.
He was convicted in a Paris court. The judge did not sentence him to any prison time, though the charge could have allowed a sentence of up to six months behind bars.
"I am from another generation," he said during the trial, so part of the remark was "a common expression at the time." He also said he did so during a TV interview because he "wanted to make the journalist laugh and I regret it."
"I was anything but racist," he said, standing before the court with the help of crutches.
Lawyers for the SOS Racism association said Guerlain abused the national platform he was given.
The company distanced itself from Guerlain, who had retired at 65 but remained a consultant.
Guerlain is the great-great-grandson of the founder of the Guerlain cosmetics company, now owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
LVMH was embarrassed last year when designer John Galliano – who worked for LVMH subsidiary Christian Dior – was convicted of anti-Semitic comments.