First we had Whitney Wolfe Herd, the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire and founder of dating app Bumble. Now, Forbes has released its 2021 list of the top 10 richest women in the world – and in first place is L’Oreal heiress Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, with a staggering net worth of US$92.9 billion.
Here’s what you might not know about the 68-year-old …
Her fortune was inherited
Françoise is the granddaughter of L’Oreal founder Eugène Schueller, who formulated a hair dye solution in 1907 that he called Oréale, sold to Parisian hairdressers and later registered as a company – the future L’Oreal.
In 1957, Schueller’s daughter (and Françoise’s mother) Liliane Bettencourt inherited Schueller’s fortune. Together with her husband, French politician André Bettencourt, the power couple soon achieved socialite status in France.
Following Liliane’s passing in September 2017, Françoise became the world’s richest woman – a title she has maintained ever since.
She had a rocky relationship with her mum
“I don’t see my daughter any more and I don’t wish to. For me, my daughter has become something inert.”
These were the words of Liliane in an interview in 2008, as reported by Vanity Fair.
The mother-daughter relationship soured after 2007, when Françoise launched a lawsuit against her mother’s close friend and celebrity photographer François-Marie Banier, whom she accused of attempting to take a share of the family’s fortune.
The case later became known as the Bettencourt Affair and would last until 2015. Banier was ultimately convicted for capitalising on Liliane’s struggle with dementia to gain family assets.
— Smac Tech (@smactechindia) November 7, 2018
She’s a published author
Despite owning a 33 per cent stake in L’Oreal, Françoise channels her time into something quite different from the cosmetics industry: authoring books. An academic who was raised Catholic, the heiress has penned books on everything from Greek mythology to the Bible.
Back in 1987, she even established the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation alongside her mother to support research in the sciences, arts and humanitarian causes.
Richest women in the world in 2018:
— Forbes (@Forbes) March 9, 2018
She shuns the spotlight
Her parents famously hosted glitzy functions, but Françoise seems to enjoy quite the opposite. Even in her adolescent years, she preferred playing the piano or indulging in books, according to the aforementioned Vanity Fair profile.
She is helping to restore the Notre-Dame cathedral
A fire in April 2019 left Paris’ famed medieval cathedral a scorched shell of its former self. To help in its restoration, L’Oreal and the Bettencourt Meyers family donated US$226 million.
Note: This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website.