Liliane Henriette was the richest woman of the world, an heiress to one of the most popular cosmetics brand in the world, L’Oreal. Her estimated net worth was a whopping $40 billion. Her empire was one of France’s most exotic business conglomerates. It is home to brands like Lancome, Garnier and La Roche-Posay.
Liliane was daughter of L’Oreal founder Eugene Schueller who was reportedly a Nazi sympathizer who has acquired property taken from Jews. Her father had in 1930s had founded a wartime movement against Judaism, Freemasons, and Bolshevism. Liliane joined the company when she was 15 as an apprentice. Her politician husband Andre Bettencourt was a former cabinet member under French President Charles de Gaulle. Her life has not been free from controversies like most other fashionistas. Liliane was diagnosed with dementia and was embroiled in a high-profile exploitation case that even subsumed then French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
Her only daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers had filed a lawsuit against her mother’s estranged friend Francois-Marie Banier. He was a photographer and artist who was accused of taking undue advantage of Liliane’s mental health and extracting gifts and favors worth $1 billion. He also took life insurance policies and a regular salary from L’Oreal. Banier was charged for exploiting an “overmedicated and disoriented woman”, with testimonies from a bunch of her house-staffs. Virtually a soap opera case, this family feud was a cynosure of a major political and legal scandal. It was even claimed that her money was illegally used for funding the Presidential campaigns. This scandal has cost Sarkozy his Presidency although he vehemently denied any involvement and proprieties.
She was declared unfit to run the business as she suffered from “mixed dementia” and Alzheimer’s disease, and was rarely seen in public after 2012. Liliane had massive properties right from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. She was also a philanthropist who gave millions to charitable purposes such as education, health, and humanitarian projects. Contrary to her father’s anti-Semitic history, Francoise Bettencourt, a Catholic married a Jew.
All the assets of Liliane including more than 30% of voting shares of L’Oreal are with a trust controlled by her daughter and grandsons. L’Oreal remains to be the world’s largest cosmetic fortune.
Article by Mausam.