Liliane Bettencourt, the world’s richest woman and heiress to the vast L’Oreal fortune, has died at her home aged 94.
Bettencourt, listed by Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index as the fifteenth richest person in the world with a total net worth of $42.5, and the world’s richest woman, passed away on Wednesday, her family said.
Bettencourt was the only child of L’Oreal founder Eugene Schueller, she inherited his fortune following his death in 1957. Schuller had embarrassed his daughter due to his political affiliations.
He was, before and during World War II, an avowed supporter of La Cagoule, a fascist group linked to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party. Up until her death she and her children had owned 33 percent of the company.
In a statement, L’Oreal chairman and CEO Jean-Paul Agon said: “We all had a deep admiration for Liliane Bettencourt who has always watched over L’Oreal, the company and its employees, and who was very attached to its success and development.
“She personally contributed a lot to its success for very many years. A great woman of beauty has left us and we will never forget her.”
In recent years, Bettencourt had been under the guardianship of family members, stemming from a famous court case known as the “Bettencourt affair”. The case ended with a 2011 ruling that she was unable to look after her vast fortune, as she suffered from dementia, and had been exploited by celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier.
Banier was convicted of exploiting the heiress and sentenced to three years in prison in 2015. The affair also involved allegations of illegal to members of then French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government in 2010, the payments allegedly paid for his 2007 election campaign.
The former president was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.