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The French beauty mogul with a £64BILLION fortune: L’Oreal heiress is named world’s richest woman

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For the third year running, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers – the granddaughter of L’Oreal founder Eugene Schueller – has been named as the world’s richest woman.

According to Forbes, the French heiress is worth $80.5 billion (£64 billion) having inherited her mother’s 33 percent share of the cosmetics company in 2017.

While she has served on L’Oreal’s board of directors since 1997, and is chairwoman of the family holding company, she is not solely focused on her business activities.

Raised a strict Catholic, she is a respected bible scholar and has written books on topics ranging from Greek mythology to Jewish-Christian relations.

Francoise also serves as the president of her family’s philanthropic foundation, which supports French endeavours in the sciences and arts.

For the third year running, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers (pictured) - the granddaughter of L'Oreal founder Eugene Schueller - has been named as the world's richest woman

For the third year running, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers (pictured) – the granddaughter of L’Oreal founder Eugene Schueller – has been named as the world’s richest woman

Francoise came in at 11th in the overall 2023 Forbes billionaire list.

The beauty mogul’s vast wealth beat Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s £51 billion fortune – which placed him 16th on the list.

The top spaces on the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people, compiled every year, have for years been dominated by technology entrepreneurs.

But tech’s less-appealing volatility in share value has seen luxury goods re-emerge triumphant, despite a global recession and pandemic.

American tycoon Elon Musk, 51, was dethroned as king of the list by the 74-year-old handbag and perfume manufacturer, Bernard Arnault, who is also French and boasts a £169 billion fortune.

Arnault’s luxury goods firm LVMH includes leading brands such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Tiffany&Co, and Moet & Chandon.

Francoise, meanwhile, owes her incredible wealth to the 33 per cent stake her family continued to hold in the cosmetics firm, which she inherited as sole heiress upon her mother’s death in 2017 – also the previous richest woman in the world.

Francoise is married to Jean-Pierre Meyers, a former firector of Nestle and one of the main shareholders in the holding company behind a wine firm.

The pair have two children together, named Jean-Victor and Nicolas. 

Jean-Pierre Meyers is also the grandson of a rabbi murdered at Auschwitz.

Rabbi Robert Meyers was killed by the Nazis in 1943 – one of millions in the Holocaust – but not before he saved around 700 million Jews by warning them of their impending arrest at the hands of the Gendarmerie in occupied France.

Francoise’s marriage caused controversy as her grandfather Eugene Schueller, a pharmacist who invented a hair dye called L’Oreal in 1908, was put on trial for ‘economic and political collaboration’ with the Nazis during the Second World War. 

He was later cleared of the charges by a Parisian post-war court.

However, he is known to have given financial support and held meetings for the La Cagoule group – a violent French fascist-leaning, antisemitic and anti-communist group whose leader formed a political party Mouvement Social Révolutionnaire.

During the Second World War, MSR in occupied France supported the Vichy collaboration with the conquerors from Nazi Germany.

After the war, he hired several members of the group as executives – a topic that was extensively researched by Israeli historian and author Michael Bar-Zohar in his book, Bitter Scent. Despite his history, the head office of the cosmetics company in Clichy, Hauts-de-Seine is named Centre Eugène Schueller.

Francoise's marriage caused controversy as her grandfather Eugene Schueller (pictured), a pharmacist who invented a hair dye called L'Oreal in 1908, was put on trial for 'economic and political collaboration' with the Nazis during the Second World War

Francoise’s marriage caused controversy as her grandfather Eugene Schueller (pictured), a pharmacist who invented a hair dye called L’Oreal in 1908, was put on trial for ‘economic and political collaboration’ with the Nazis during the Second World War

Pictured: Francoise Bettencourt Meyers's parents, Former Secretary of State Andre Bettencourt (right) and wife Liliane (left) are seen arriving at the Espace Cardin for the Marlene Dietrich's show on June 20, 1973 in Paris, France

Pictured: Francoise Bettencourt Meyers’s parents, Former Secretary of State Andre Bettencourt (right) and wife Liliane (left) are seen arriving at the Espace Cardin for the Marlene Dietrich’s show on June 20, 1973 in Paris, France

Pictured: Francoise's socialite mother Liliane Bettencourt and former Cabinet minister father Andre Bettencourt are seen in 1997. The pair were known for throwing exclusive parties

Pictured: Francoise’s socialite mother Liliane Bettencourt and former Cabinet minister father Andre Bettencourt are seen in 1997. The pair were known for throwing exclusive parties

Raised a strict Catholic, Francoise (pictured in 2011) is a respected bible scholar and has written books on topics ranging from Greek mythology to Jewish-Christian relations. Francoise also serves as the president of her family's philanthropic foundation, which supports French endeavours in the sciences and arts

Raised a strict Catholic, Francoise (pictured in 2011) is a respected bible scholar and has written books on topics ranging from Greek mythology to Jewish-Christian relations. Francoise also serves as the president of her family’s philanthropic foundation, which supports French endeavours in the sciences and arts

Francoise’s socialite mother – who inherited her father’s wealth – and former Cabinet minister father Andre Bettencourt were known for throwing exclusive parties. 

World’s Top 10 richest women

1. Françoise Bettencourt Meyers & family – £80.5 billion* – L’Oreal

2. Julia Koch & family – $59 billion* – Koch Industries

3. Alice Walton – $56.7 billion* – Walmart

4. Jacqueline Mars – $38.3 billion* – Mars Inc.

5. Miriam Adelson & family – $35 billion* – Las Vegas Sands (casinos)

6. Rafaela Aponte-Diamant – $31.2 billion* – MSC shipping

7. Susanne Klatten – $27.4 billion* – BMW, pharmaceuticals

8. Gina Rinehart – $27 billion* – Mining

9. MacKenzie Scott – $24.4 billion* – Amazon (ex-wife of Jeff Bezos)

10. Iris Fontbona & family – £23.1 billion* – Mining

*As of April 4, according to Forbes

But Francoise does not indulge in the same glamorous lifestyle, preferring to play the piano or write. She has written and published two books – one on the topic of the Greek gods, and another titled ‘A look at the Bible’.

However, she hit the headlines in the late-2000s when her inheritance became the subject of a sensational trial in France, which saw a man convicted of manipulating her ailing mother to gain access to her fortune.

In 2008, Francoise sued French novelist, playwright, artist, actor and photographer Francois-Marie Banier, claiming that he took money from her mother.

Francoise started proceedings to have her mother declared mentally incompetent, and in 2010 announced that she had settled out of court with her mother and Banier.

But that was not the end of the affair. Tapes recorded by Liliane’s staff revealed that she had made Banier her ‘sole heir’ (excluding the L’Oreal shares).

He was later removed from her will, and in 2016, Banier was eventually convicted of ‘abuse of weakness’ of Francoise’s elderly billionaire mother. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and ordered to pay 158 million euros in damages.

The prosecutor at the time stated he had ‘imposed his control over [Liliane] like a spider spinning its web. And once he had her in his net, he never let her go. She became his thing. He dealt with her like a vampire.’

Liliane’s financial adviser, lawyer and notary were also convicted. 

Banier appealed his conviction, which was upheld in a second trial. However, his sentence was reduced to four years suspended and a 375,000 euro fine – cancelling the other damages he was ordered to pay.

In 2019, a judge dismissed the remaining charges. 

The case had far-reaching consequences in French politics. The tape recording made by her butler also suggested that Liliane and her financial advisor were avoiding paying taxes by keeping cash hidden away in Swiss bank accounts. 

The tapes also allegedly captured a conversation between Liliane and Eric Woerth (then the French Minister of Labour) who was soliciting a job for his wife managing Bettencourt’s wealth – all while acting as the country’s budge minister and heading up a campaign to catch wealthy tax avoiders in the country.

Francoise’s mother also recieved a 30 million euro tax rebate while Woerth was the French budget minister.

French photgrapher and author Francois-Marie Banier explaining his works to Liliane Bettencourt (left) at Hans Lange Museum in Krefeld, Germany. In 2016, Banier was eventually convicted of 'abuse of weakness' of Francoise's elderly billionaire mother. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and ordered to pay 158 million euros in damages

French photgrapher and author Francois-Marie Banier explaining his works to Liliane Bettencourt (left) at Hans Lange Museum in Krefeld, Germany. In 2016, Banier was eventually convicted of ‘abuse of weakness’ of Francoise’s elderly billionaire mother. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and ordered to pay 158 million euros in damages

Pictured: Francoise Bettencourt Meyers (left) and mother Liliane Bettenourt leave the RITZ hotel on October 21, 2016 in Paris, France - a year before Liliane passed away making her daughter the richest woman in the world

Pictured: Francoise Bettencourt Meyers (left) and mother Liliane Bettenourt leave the RITZ hotel on October 21, 2016 in Paris, France – a year before Liliane passed away making her daughter the richest woman in the world

The scandal eventually embroiled other French politicians, including President Nicolas Sarkozy, over an envelope of cash given towards his 2007 campaign.

In 2013, Sarkozy, Woerth and other officials were targeted by prosecutors over a series of points in the affair, although in October that year charges were dropped against Sarkozy.

Since her mother’s death, Francoise has enjoyed a more stable period.

She has been labelled a ‘serious minded intellectual’ by Time magazine, and pledged £160million to repair Notre Dame cathedral after it was ravaged by a fire in 2019.

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