This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, the 70-year-old granddaughter of L’Oreal founder Eugène Schueller, is the richest woman in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Bettencourt Meyers is worth almost $88 billion, mostly due to her stake in L’Oreal. She’s in 13th position on the Bloomberg list and has become $16 billion better off this year.
Here’s a look at her life and wealth.
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, 70, is the granddaughter of L’Oreal founder Eugène Schueller.
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Schueller, a pharmacist, founded the company that was to become L’Oreal in 1909.
His daughter and Bettencourt Meyers’ mother, Liliane, inherited Schueller’s fortune and control of the company upon his death in 1957.
Along with her husband, André Bettencourt, a French politician, the Bettencourts were well known in France for their glamorous parties.
But Bettencourt Meyers was less interested in the socialite lifestyle of her parents, preferring to stay in and play the piano or read, Vanity Fair reported.
Bettencourt Meyers had a fraught relationship with her mother.
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The mother-daughter relationship was strained since Bettencourt Meyers was a teenager.
“Françoise was heavy and slow,” Bettencourt once said, per Vanity Fair. “Always one lap behind me.”
Bettencourt also called Françoise “a cold child” in an interview with a French newspaper, per The New York Times.
As an adult, Bettencourt Meyers chose to focus on her career as an author.
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The heiress has written books on topics ranging from Greek mythology to Judaism and Catholicism.
Her most recent book, a Biblical commentary entitled “Regard sur la Bible,” was published in 2008, according to its Amazon page.
Bettencourt Meyers also sits on L’Oreal’s board and chairs the family’s holding company.
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Bettencourt Meyers has a 33% stake in L’Oreal and is a board member.
Her relationship with her mother came to a tipping point when Bettencourt Meyers initiated a decade-long family feud over her inheritance.
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In the lawsuit, Bettencourt Meyers alleged that photographer François-Marie Banier used his friendship with Liliane Bettencourt to manipulate the elderly heiress into giving him some 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion) of cash, art, and life insurance policies, The New York Times reported.
Bettencourt, who was diagnosed with dementia, disputed her daughter’s assertion, said she freely shared her assets with Banier.
In a 2008 letter to Banier, Bettencourt described their relationship to him writing: “With you, I am like a mother, a lover, all the feelings pass through me. It makes me tremble,” according to Vanity Fair.
Bettencourt Meyers told a French news magazine in 2009 that Mr. Banier’s “objective is clear: break away my mother from our family to profit from her. I will not let it happen.”
The case went to trial in 2015. Bainer was convicted of “abus de faiblesse,” or “abuse of weakness.”
He was sentenced to two and half years in prison and told to pay Bettencourt 158 million euros million in damages.
The jail sentence and payment were later reversed in an appeal.
The pair weren’t on speaking terms after Bettencourt Meyers filed the criminal complaint in 2009.
Liliane Bettencourt and Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers. Thibault Camus/AP via BI
“I don’t see my daughter anymore and I don’t wish to,” Bettencourt said in a 2008 interview, according to Vanity Fair. “For me, my daughter has become something inert.”
A lawyer involved in the case told Vanity Fair: “The mother massacred the daughter, then the daughter massacred the mother.”
In 2011, Bettencourt was placed under the guardianship of her family due to concerns over her declining mental health.
The lawsuit also drudged up long-forgotten family secrets, including speculation that Bettencourt Meyer’s father Andre and her grandfather were Nazi sympathizers.
Andre Bettencourt and Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers in 1988. James Andanson/Getty Images via BI
Bettencourt Meyers’ grandfather, Eugene Schueller, had publicly commended Adolf Hitler’s “dynamism” in the early years of Nazi Germany and was investigated as a Nazi collaborator after World War II ended, Insider’s Áine Cain reported.
Schueller was also a member of a secret society that plotted to overthrow France’s republican government in the 1930s, Insider reported. The group, which was linked to multiple murders and bombings, was bankrolled by Schueller who hosted its meetings at L’Oréal’s headquarters.
André Bettencourt, Bettencourt Meyers’ father, wrote anti-Semitic diatribes for the pro-German press during the war, according to Time, though he switched his allegiances and joined the Resistance. He was later decorated for his military service during World War II and went on to serve in the French government.
Even though she was on the winning side of the lawsuit, Bettencourt Meyers was later investigated for allegations of bribing a witness.
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The investigation stemmed from a criminal complaint filed by Bainer in 2015, according to Vanity Fair. At the time, Bettencourt Meyers said the payment she made to the witness was part severance payment, part personal loan, and not a bribe for the testimony.
That suit and Bettencourt Meyers’ countersuit against Bainer were resolved in a secret plea deal in 2016, Vanity Fair reported.
Bettencourt Meyers inherited tens of billions of dollars when her mother died in 2017, and valuable assets like this mansion in the suburbs of Paris …
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The house is located in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a wealthy suburb west of Paris. Neuilly-sur-Seine is known in France as “power suburb, a place not only of wealth but influence,” according to The Independent. It’s also home to actors Christian Clavier, Thierry Lhermitte, Gerard Jugnot, and politician Marine Le Pen.
The Art deco mansion and is where Bettencourt spent her final days, Time reported.
… and this mansion overlooking France’s Brittany coast.
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The mansion was one of Bettencourt’s childhood homes, The New York Times reported.
Bettencourt Meyers lived in this nearby home.
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French police searched this home in 2010 as a part of the investigations surrounding the Bettencourt affair, Bloomberg reported at the time.
Bettencourt Meyers lived there with her husband Jean-Pierre Meyers.
Jean-Victor Meyers, Nicolas Meyers, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and her husband Jean-Pierre Meyers in 2019. Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images for Foundation L’Oreal via BI
Jean-Pierre Meyers is CEO of French spirits producer Tethys SAS, and is also on the board of Nestle.
The couple has two adult sons, Jean-Victor and Nicolas. Jean-Victor is on L’Oreal’s board of directors along with Bettencourt Meyers.
In the years since the controversy involving her family, Bettencourt Meyers’ fortune has grown exponentially.
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Bettencourt Meyers is worth $87.8 billion, Bloomberg estimates, making her the world’s wealthiest woman and the 13th richest person.
She and her family control 33% of L’Oréal, the world’s largest cosmetics maker. L’Oréal shares were up 29% in the first half of 2023, according to Forbes.
The company owns mass-market brands like Maybelline, Essie, Garnier, and, of course, L’Oréal, as well as high-end beauty companies like Urban Decay, Lancôme, and Kiehl’s. L’Oréal also licenses the beauty divisions of luxury fashion houses including Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino.
Bettencourt Meyers isn’t the only French billionaire on the rich list. LVMH chief Bernard Arnault became the world’s wealthiest person in December 2022 but relinquished the crown to Elon Musk in June. Arnault is worth $175 billion, per Bloomberg, while Musk is worth $249 billion.
The overall wealth of French company founders and heirs has jumped by $93 billion in 2023 alone, reports Bloomberg.
Bettencourt Meyers has dedicated some of her billions to philanthropy.
Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers. Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images via BI
Bettencourt Meyers hasn’t kept all her money to herself. In April 2019 she was among French billionaires who pledged millions after Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire, Insider reported.
Bettencourt Meyers is also the president of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, the charity she cofounded in the 1980s. It issues grants to support research in the life sciences and arts projects, according to its website.