L’Oreal Heiress Breaks Record as First Woman to Reach $100 Billion Fortune

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, the granddaughter of the founder of L’Oreal, has become the first woman in history to amass a fortune of $100 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The 70-year-old French businesswoman, philanthropist, and writer inherited a 33% stake in the world’s largest cosmetics company from her mother, Liliane Bettencourt, who died in 2017.

L’Oreal was founded in 1909 by Eugène Schueller, a pharmacist who developed a hair dye formula that revolutionized the beauty industry. He expanded his business into other products such as shampoos, soaps, and perfumes, and established a research laboratory to innovate new formulas. He also diversified into other sectors such as pharmaceuticals, textiles, and chemicals.

L’Oreal Heiress Breaks Record as First Woman to Reach $100 Billion Fortune
L’Oreal Heiress Breaks Record as First Woman to Reach $100 Billion Fortune

Schueller was a controversial figure who was accused of collaborating with the Nazi regime during World War II. He was tried and acquitted after the war, but his political views tarnished his reputation. He died in 1957, leaving his company and fortune to his only daughter, Liliane Bettencourt.

How Liliane Bettencourt Turned L’Oreal into a Household Name

Liliane Bettencourt, who was born in 1922, grew up in a privileged and glamorous environment. She married André Bettencourt, a French politician and journalist, in 1950. They had one daughter, Françoise, who was born in 1953.

Liliane Bettencourt was a savvy businesswoman who helped L’Oreal grow into a global leader in the cosmetics industry. She oversaw the acquisition of brands such as Lancôme, Garnier, and Maybelline, and expanded the company’s presence in international markets such as China, India, and Brazil. She also supported the company’s social and environmental initiatives, such as promoting diversity, sustainability, and women’s empowerment.

Liliane Bettencourt was also a generous philanthropist who donated millions of euros to various causes, such as medical research, education, culture, and human rights. She established the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation in 1987, which supports scientific, cultural, and humanitarian projects. She also received several honors and awards for her contributions, such as the Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian distinction.

How Françoise Bettencourt Meyers Became the Richest Woman in the World

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, who was raised as a strict Catholic, had a different personality and lifestyle from her parents. She was more interested in literature, music, and religion than in the socialite scene. She married Jean-Pierre Meyers, a business executive and the grandson of a rabbi who was killed at Auschwitz, in 1984. She converted to Judaism and raised their two sons, Jean-Victor and Nicolas, as Jewish.

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers is an accomplished author who has written several books on topics such as Greek mythology, Judaism, and Catholicism. She has also been involved in the family business, serving on L’Oreal’s board since 1997 and chairing the family holding company, Téthys Invest, since 2012.

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers had a strained relationship with her mother, especially after she discovered that her mother had given away billions of euros to a photographer named François-Marie Banier, whom she suspected of exploiting her mother’s mental frailty. She filed a lawsuit against Banier in 2007, accusing him of fraud and abuse of trust. The legal battle lasted for years and exposed the family’s secrets and scandals, such as tax evasion, political donations, and alleged ties to the far-right. The case was settled out of court in 2010, after Liliane Bettencourt agreed to cut ties with Banier and appoint her daughter as her legal guardian.

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers inherited her mother’s fortune and stake in L’Oreal when she died in 2017. Since then, she has seen her wealth increase dramatically, thanks to the strong performance of L’Oreal’s shares, which have risen by more than 40% in 2023. She has also continued her mother’s philanthropic legacy, pledging €200 million ($226 million) to help rebuild the Notre-Dame Cathedral after it was damaged by a fire in 2019.

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers is now the richest woman in the world, with a net worth of $100 billion as of December 29, 2023, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. She is also the 11th richest person in the world, ahead of other billionaires such as Mukesh Ambani, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk.

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