Liliane Bettencourt, L’Oreal Cosmetics empire And world’s wealthiest woman has died at the age of 94 on Wednesday at her home in Neuilly, Paris. Her death was announced in a statement from the Chief Executive Officer at L’Oreal Group, Jean-Paul Agon.
Bettencourt who was the only child of L’Oreal SA founder Eugene Schueller, owned about one-third of the company’s shares. During her lifetime, the Paris-based company grew from a small hair-dye supplier into the largest maker of beauty products with more than 30 brands including Lancome and Garnier sold in about 140 countries. In 2016 the company reported revenue of 25.8 billion euros ($27 billion).
According to Blomberg, after the death of Bettencourt’s husband, French conservative politician Andre Bettencourt, in 2007, the media-shy heiress spent her final years embroiled in a legal spat with their only child, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers.
Bettencourt Meyers claimed her mother was mentally unfit and had been manipulated by her entourage, especially one friend to whom she gave about 1 billion euros in gifts and cash. In 2011, a French judge assigned Bettencourt’s daughter and two grandsons as guardians over her interests.
Liliane Bettencourt’s fortune now passes onto Bettencourt Meyers, 64, who heads the family’s investment company. An academic, she wrote books on Greek mythology and Jewish-Christian relations. As main guardian of the family’s assets, including its stake in L’Oreal, Bettencourt Meyers succeeds her mother as the world’s richest woman.
Under French inheritance law — which dates from the Napoleonic era — Bettencourt Meyers, as the sole child, must receive at least 50 percent of her mother’s estate. She’s credited with the entire estate in Bloomberg’s analysis.
A little History about Liliane Bettencourt:
Liliane Henriette Betsy Schueller was born Oct. 21, 1922, in Paris. She was 5 years old when her mother, Louise, died, leaving Liliane with with what she called “an empty pit nothing could ever fill.” She was raised by Dominican nuns.
Bettencourt described her childhood as dominated by a stern, workaholic father who woke up every day at 4 a.m. When she turned 15, she was sent to one of her father’s factories to glue labels on L’Oreal bottles.
While providing his daughter with France’s biggest fortune, Eugene Schueller had embarrassed her by his politics. Before and during the World War II, he was a staunch supporter of La Cagoule, a fascist group with ties to the Nazi regime.
L’Oreal owes its origins — and its name — to Aureole, a nontoxic hair colorant Schueller developed in 1907 and sold to Parisian beauty salons. Two years later, the young chemist registered his business under the name Safe Hair Dye Company of France.
After her father’s death in 1957, Bettencourt entrusted L’Oreal to his best friend, Francois Dalle, who remained chief executive officer until 1984.
Lindsay Owen-Jones, who became CEO in 1988, turned the company into the global cosmetics giant it is today.
Bettencourt had two grandchildren. Her grandson, Jean-Victor Meyers, replaced her on L’Oreal’s board in 2012.