Liliane Bettencourt, who was the world’s richest woman, has died aged 94. The L’Oreal heiress and businesswoman’s passing was announced by her daughter on Thursday 21 September.
The Bettencourt family, which founded L’Oreal, still has a 33% stake in the company.
“In this painful moment for us, I would like to reiterate, on behalf of our family, our entire commitment and loyalty to L’Oreal and to renew my confidence in its President Jean-Paul Agon and his teams worldwide,” Françoise Bettencourt Meyers said in an statement emailed to the New York Times.
Notoriously averse to appearing in the media, Bettencourt found herself at the centre of unwanted attention in the last few years, amid alleged funding of conservative French politicians and her relationship with her estranged daughter.
Bettencourt was born Liliane Schueller in Paris in 1922 and lost her mother at the tender age of five. At 15, she was already working as an apprentice in the family business. She inherited the L’Oreal empire in 1957.
She married French politician Andre Bettencourt in 1950. He became deputy chairman of the cosmetics giant while also serving as a French cabinet minister in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1974, in fear that L’Oreal would be nationalised after the French elections, she exchanged almost half of her stake for a 3% stake in confectioners Nestle. Bettencourt continued to own around a third of the company.
In 1987 Bettencourt founded the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, a philanthropic venture, giving millions of euros to scientific research and humanitarian projects.
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