Liliane Henriette Charlotte Bettencourt, one of the principal shareholders of L'Oreal, recently passed away on September 21, 2017, at the age of 94. She was the richest woman in the world, at the time of her death, and was the 14th richest person, according to the 2017 version of "The World's Billionaires." Here are some very interesting facts about the French heiress and businesswomen:
Bettencourt, the heir to French L’Oreal Cosmetics Empire was the world richest women and #14th billionaires in the world with $39.5 billion, according to Forbes’ list of 2017.
Bettencourt left behind her legacy when she breathed her last on September 21, 2017. She was notable not only for her wealth but tragedy, scandal and family feuds.
She was born Liliane Henriette Charlotte Schueller, as the only child to Louise Madeleine Berthe and Eugene Schueller, on October 21, 1922, in Paris, France.
She lost her mother at the age of five and was close to her father. She was raised by Dominican nuns. She calls this period after her mother’s demise as ‘an empty pit nothing could ever fill.’
Her childhood was dominated by her workaholic father and by the age of 15 she accompanied her father to the factories as apprentice. She assisted him in mixing cosmetics and labeling bottles of shampoo.
Her family was Nazi sympathizer who helped bankroll the far-right organization La Cagoule in the 1930s.
She married Andre Bettencourt in 1950, who served as a cabinet minister in the French Government of the 1960s. He was also the member of La Cagoule, the fascist pro-Nazi group.
The couple divided their time between a mansion in a chic suburb of Paris, an impressive property on the Brittany coast and their private island in the Seychelles.
Liliane and Andre had one daughter named Francoise, who went on to marry Jean-Pierre Meyers, a Jewish man.
After her father’s death in 1957, she inherited the L’Oreal fortune and became principal shareholder.
According to its president, she always looked after L’Oreal, the company and its employee and was dedicated to its success and development. She earned the admiration of her employees.
Apart from fashion she is an art collector owning artworks of renowned artists including Chirico, Fernand Legar, Picasso, Girodet, Matisse, Munch, Juan Miro and Braque.
After the company went public in 1963, they went about expanding by acquiring the luxury beauty brand Lancome, the American cosmetics company Helena Rubinstein, and the American fashion retailer Ralph Lauren.
Bettencourt, as a majority stake holder sold half of her stake for a three percent stake in Nestle in 1974, fearing that the company would be nationalized.
In 1995, she joined L’Oreal’s board of directors. Same year the company acquired two generic drug companies, in Germany and in France. They become number two US cosmetics maker after buying Maybelline for $758 million.
In 1987, she her family founded ‘Bettencourt Schueller Foundation’ with an asset of almost € 150 million. The foundation focuses on scientific education, devoting approximately 55% for the purpose. The social and humanitarian accounted for 33% and the culture and arts got 12%.
In 2008, her family foundation helped to fund the new Monet wing at the Musee Marmottan Monet.
Bettencourt is shy of publicity and generally shunned media attention and gave very few interviews.
She was under fire from media over her relation with Francois-Marie Banier. It was reported she was his benefactor, showering with very expensive gifts, art works and was made sole heir to Bettencourt estate.
In 2007, as a multi shareholder Bettencourt along with Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the chairman of the board of directors of the Nestle Corporation, were awarded ‘The Black Planet Award 2007’ for irresponsible marketing of baby food contaminated by genetically manipulated nutrition.
In 2007, she was dragged into a controversy by her daughter when she filed a criminal complaint against Banier, of exploiting of a physical or psychological weakness for personal gain over Bettencourt. On December 06, 2010, she reconciled with her daughter ending all lawsuits.
In December 2008, it was reported Bettencourt was the first victim of Bernard Madoff’s ‘Ponzi scheme,’ losing € 22 million. Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, the co-founder and chief executive of Access International, the fund manager was found dead. He committed suicide.
In June, 2010, she was involved in a high level French political scandal, when her personal butler made public the recording of her conversations. She was accused of funding Sarkozy’s election campaign as favor for massive tax breaks.
On October 17, 2011, the French court ruled that she was to be placed under the guardianship of member of her family on concerns about her declining mental health. This verdict was the outcome of her daughter, Meyers’s application with court.
She was ordered to pay $ 133 million in unpaid taxes by French authorities after ubdeclared accounts in Singapore and Switzerland came to light.
In 2012, she sold the ‘D’Arros’ island in Seychelles to conservation business linked to the Swiss Save our Seas Foundation for £60 million, with a profit of £ 42 million from when she first bought it.
On February 13, 2012, Bettencourt was replaced as Board Director with 25 years old, Jean Victor Meyers, her grandson. He studied economics and management in France and in United States.
Bettencourt was listed as world’s wealthiest person and top female billionaire in the world and also the richest person in France.
She was diagnosed with dementia and was under the guardianship of her daughter and grandsons. She kept herself busy with regime of swimming, walking and yoga. She was as well into treatment like acupuncture, which helped her be sharp.
Bettencourt was laid to rest in Paris on September 26, 2017, after the funeral was attended by family and friends. Her daughter Francoise is in line to inherit the vast cosmetics empire, six year after she took control of the assets following her mother was declared senile.