Liliane Bettencourt was a French businesswoman who was one of the richest women in the world. She was born on October 21, 1922, in Paris, France, and was the only child of Eugene Schueller, the founder of the L’Oreal cosmetics company. After her father’s death, Bettencourt inherited a large stake in the company and became its principal shareholder.
Liliane Henriette Charlotte Schueller was born on October 21, 1922, in Paris, as the only child of Louise Madeleine Berthe and Eugène Schueller, the founder of global cosmetic and beauty company, L’Oréal. When Liliane was five, her mother passed away, and she became close with her father, who later remarried. At age 15, she joined her father’s company, starting as an apprentice by mixing cosmetics and labeling bottles of shampoo.
In 1950, she married French politician André Bettencourt, who was a cabinet minister in the French government and later became deputy chairman of L’Oréal. The couple settled in a mansion built in 1951 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, and had one daughter, Françoise, in 1953.
When her father passed away in 1957, Bettencourt inherited the L’Oréal fortune and became the principal shareholder. Although the company went public in 1963, Bettencourt retained a majority stake. In 1974, fearing the nationalization of the company, she exchanged almost half of her stake for a 3% stake in Nestlé S.A.
Bettencourt was known for her philanthropic work and was a major patron of the arts in France. She also supported medical research, education, and cultural institutions. In 1987, she created the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation to support scientific research, cultural and humanitarian projects, and medical research.
After acquiring the luxury beauty brand Lancôme, the American cosmetics company Helena Rubinstein, and the American fashion retailer Ralph Lauren, among others, the company expanded beyond the L’Oréal brand, contributing to the owner’s wealth and ranking her among the world’s wealthiest women. Subsequently, in 1987, she and her family founded the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller, a charitable organization focused on humanitarian, medical, and cultural initiatives. Later in 1995, she became a member of L’Oréal’s board of directors.
In 2011, Bettencourt was involved in a high-profile legal battle with her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, who accused her mother’s friend and financial advisor, François-Marie Banier, of exploiting her mother’s mental frailty to take advantage of her. The case resulted in a criminal conviction for Banier and a conviction for Bettencourt’s former accountant, who was found guilty of taking advantage of her.
As of December 2012, Bettencourt owned 30.5% of L’Oréal’s outstanding shares, of which 12.56% are held in trust for her daughter. The Bettencourt family and Nestlé act in concert pursuant to a shareholders’ agreement. Bettencourt ended her board director tenure on February 13, 2012, and her grandson, Jean-Victor, was appointed as a board director. Bettencourt’s daughter and son-in-law are also members of the board of directors.
Bettencourt avoided media attention and rarely granted interviews. In August 2012, she sold her private island, D’Arros Island, to a Seychelles-registered conservation business linked to the Swiss Save our Seas Foundation, for £60 million.
Bettencourt was a private person and rarely gave interviews or made public appearances. She passed away on September 21, 2017, at the age of 94, leaving behind a fortune estimated at around $44 billion. Her death marked the end of an era for L’Oreal, as her family sold its stake in the company to Nestlé in a deal worth around $12 billion. Today, L’Oreal remains one of the world’s largest cosmetics companies, with a wide range of products sold in more than 150 countries.
It was said that Bettencourt possessed an art collection that included works by prominent artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Derain, and Soutine, as well as Mondrian, and furniture designed by Ruhlmann.
The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation (la Fondation Bettencourt Schueller) was established in 1987 by Bettencourt, her husband, and daughter with a mission to promote and develop medical, cultural, and humanitarian projects. It is headquartered in Neuilly-sur-Seine and has assets of €150 million and an annual budget of around €15 million. The foundation allocates approximately 55% of its resources to scientific research and education, 33% to social and humanitarian initiatives, and 12% to culture and the arts.
One of the foundation’s notable contributions was the funding of the Monet wing at the Musée Marmottan Monet in 2008.
L’Oréal is a French cosmetics and personal care company, one of the world’s largest in the industry. The company was founded in 1909 by Eugène Schueller, a French chemist who developed a hair dye formula that was safer and easier to use than other products available at the time. The company’s headquarters is located in Clichy, a suburb of Paris, and it operates in more than 150 countries around the world.
L’Oréal’s product portfolio includes makeup, skincare, haircare, and fragrances. The company owns a number of popular brands, including Maybelline, Garnier, Essie, Lancôme, Kiehl’s, Biotherm, and Vichy, among others. The company is known for its innovation and commitment to research and development, with a focus on developing new and more effective products that meet the evolving needs and preferences of its consumers.
At the time of her death in 2017, Liliane Bettencourt’s net worth was estimated to be around US$44.3 billion, according to Forbes. However, it is worth noting that her net worth may have fluctuated over time due to changes in the value of her assets and investments.
Liliane Bettencourt was recognized for her philanthropic work throughout her life. In 1987, she created the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, which supports various cultural, humanitarian, and scientific causes.