L'Oreal Heiress Becomes World's Richest Woman
The death this week of L’Oreal SA’s founding family matriarch is putting the spotlight on a reclusive 64-year-old heiress who now finds herself as the richest woman in the world.
Francoise Bettencourt Meyers has shunned the glittering social life that her late mother, Liliane Bettencourt (pictured), once embraced. Bettencourt Meyers is known for playing piano for several hours a day and has written two books -- a five-volume study of the Bible and a genealogy of the Greek gods.
“She really lives inside her own cocoon,” said Tom Sancton, author of "The Bettencourt Affair," who noted that even when she was a little girl she appeared uncomfortable in the world of rich people. “She lives mainly with the confines of her own family.”
That kind of seclusion will be harder to maintain as the head of Europe’s fourth-largest fortune. Through family holding company Tethys, she takes charge of her family’s 33 percent stake in the cosmetics maker, which lies at the heart of a net worth the Bloomberg Billionaires Index values at $43.3 billion.
Bettencourt Meyers steps into the spotlight at a time of increasing discussion about the future of the family’s stake, as well as the 23 percent of L’Oreal held by Swiss food-giant Nestle SA. L’Oreal climbed 2.46 percent to 180.95 euros at the close of trading Friday in Paris, after rising as much as 6.7 percent earlier in the day.
With Bettencourt’s death Thursday at age 94, analysts have started to float a variety of scenarios, including L’Oreal buying stock back from Nestle or a takeover bid for the Paris-based company. Bettencourt Meyers has already indicated little will change.
“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,” she said in a statement Thursday.
The billionaire heiress has shown less interest in L’Oreal matters than her mother did, despite her role as a board member for more than two decades. “She’d show up to meetings but unlike Liliane she never was hands-on,” Sancton said. “Liliane read tons of documents, L’Oreal was her lifeblood. That’s definitely not Francoise.”