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Françoise Bettencourt Meyers: L’Oréal Stake And Web Price of The World’s Richest Girl

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers: L’Oréal Stake And Web Price of The World’s Richest Girl

The richest woman in the world by net worth, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers signifies wealth, power and perhaps a touch of mystery. She is the chairwoman of the family holding company, Téthys Invest, and is the heiress of French cosmetics giant L’Oréal.

Known to be extremely private, the life of the 70-year-old Bettencourt Meyers is woven with the threads of cosmetics, philanthropy and family drama. While her net worth has always been public knowledge, details of how she spends her vast fortune are scarce.

Except for publicly known events of her family and an infamous scandal involving a legal dispute with her mother, little about her life is known. She is hardly ever seen at social gatherings but usually attends business or philanthropic events.

In November 2023, Netflix released a true-crime documentary titled, The Billionaire, The Butler, and the Boyfriend. The documentary is about the infamous ‘Bettencourt Affair’ — a legal case that embroiled the members of the family as well as L’Oréal and members of the French government.

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers: Her net worth and how she got rich

Personal life

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Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and her husband Jean-Pierre Meyers. (Image credit: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images for L’Oreal Foundation)

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers was born on 10 July 1953 as the only child of Liliane Bettencourt and André Bettencourt.

Liliane was the only child of Eugène Schueller, the founder of L’Oréal, who inherited her father’s fortune upon his death in 1957.

André, who was popularly referred to as “Dédé,” was a politician. He served in various important ministerial positions, including France’s minister of industry and minister for foreign affairs, between 1966 and 1973. He also served as the mayor of Saint-Maurice-d’Etelan from 1965 to 1989.

André was close to François Mitterrand, who, after becoming President of France, considered making him the French Prime Minister in 1986.

Both Liliane and André sat on L’Oréal’s board and saw the rise of the company into a global cosmetics giant.

André died on 19 November 2007. In the mid-1990s, he stepped down from his position as deputy chairman of L’Oréal and transferred his shares to Liliane.

Bettencourt Meyers is married to Jean-Pierre Meyers, who is the CEO of French spirits producer Tethys SAS and is on the board of Nestlé.

The couple has two adult sons, Jean-Victor and Nicolas. The former is on L’Oréal’s board of directors.

What is the net worth of Françoise Bettencourt Meyers?

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers has a net worth of USD 98 billion, according to Forbes, as of 7 February 2024. The fortune comes from a 33-35 per cent stake in L’Oréal, which she inherited from her mother.

Lilian had a net worth of around USD 45 million at the time of her death at the age of 94 on 21 September 2017. She was then the world’s richest woman — a distinction that almost immediately passed on to her daughter along with the inheritance.

L’Oréal has since expanded rapidly, as is evident from Bettencourt Meyers’ current net worth which is more than double of what she inherited.

Forbes data shows that her net worth rose from USD 48.9 billion in 2020 to USD 73.6 billion in 2021, indicating a massive surge in the business of the French cosmetics giant.

On 28 December 2023, Bettencourt Meyers became the first woman in history to amass a net worth of USD 100 billion when stocks of L’Oréal rose to record highs.

Bettencourt Meyers is the vice-chairperson of the company’s board. She is the 13th richest person overall, as of 7 February 2024 and the second-richest person in France after Bernard Arnault, whose net worth is more than USD 200 billion.

‘The Bettencourt Affair’

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Liliane Bettencourt and her daughter Francoise Bettencourt Meyers. (Image credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

On 19 December 2007, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers sued celebrity photographer François-Marie Banier on charges of abus de faiblesse (abuse of weakness). The criminal case accused Banier of taking advantage of Liliane’s mental weakness to illegally extract close to a billion euros over two decades.

Tom Sancton, who followed the case, famously called it ‘The Bettencourt Affair’ and wrote a book about it under the same title.

In the book, Sancton said that the case “triggered a judicial-financial-political earthquake.”

“The Bettencourt Affair is a modern-day Greek tragedy based on jealousy, greed, vengeance and retribution. It’s also a story about money: the creation from scratch of one of the world’s great fortunes, and the use and abuse of that fabulous wealth through three generations,” Sancton wrote, as revealed in a 2017 excerpt of the book in TIME magazine.

Banier first met Liliane on a photo assignment in 1987 and became a close friend to the heiress. He claimed to have known everyone from Salvador Dalí to Vladimir Horowitz and Isabelle Adjani to Johnny Depp as well as President François Mitterrand. He charmed his way into Liliane’s life, who, according to multiple media reports, saw Banier as a son.

Moreover, Liliane’s relationship with her daughter was not warm. Part of this was because Françoise Bettencourt Meyers stayed away from the glitz and glamour her parents were accustomed to, and reportedly kept herself engrossed in books and piano.

André Bettencourt simply looked on as his wife lavished money on Banier, who escorted Liliane to theatres, museums and prominent art exhibitions.

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers claimed that Banier was trying to make her mother adopt him as her son. This made Meyers sue Banier.

“That was too much,” she told Sancton, adding, “This man had denigrated my father, manipulated my mother, and shattered our family.”

Liliane, however, saw the criminal complaint against Banier as a personal attack on her.

The messy affair led to a well-publicised trial, which exposed several dark secrets about her family, the business and French politics.

Sancton said that it also threatened L’Oréal with a foreign takeover and embroiled then-President Nicolas Sarkozy in what the press called a “French Watergate.”

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Everything from tax evasion to secret Swiss bank accounts as well as illegal political contributions came to the fore by 2010.

In 2011, a court in France ruled that Liliane had a form of dementia. Françoise Bettencourt Meyers was thus granted control over her mother’s fortune. A family member was given the charge of taking care of Liliane’s well-being.

By the time the case went to trial in January 2015, there were 10 defendants, including Banier. At one point, Sarkozy, too, was investigated, but the case against him was dropped due to lack of evidence.

One of the key factors in the case’s eventual conclusion was the Bettencourt family butler Pascal Bonnefoy, who secretly recorded conversations between Liliane and her many visitors. The recordings revealed that Liliane was being exploited by close associates, including Banier. It also revealed tax evasion on the part of Liliane. The Netflix documentary, strangely, doesn’t feature Bonnefoy even though the title mentions the butler.

On 18 May 2015, the court held Banier guilty of abuse of weakness and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years of hard prison time. He was also ordered to pay EUR 158 million (approx. USD 175 million) in damages to Liliane Bettencourt. Of the remaining defendants, seven were convicted alongside Banier.

When Banier appealed against the ruling, a second trial in May 2016 suspended his prison sentence and damages but upheld the conviction.

Writing in Vanity Fair following the death of Liliane Bettencourt in 2017, Sancton said that Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, too, was at one point accused of allegedly bribing a key witness with payments amounting to EUR 700 million (approx. USD 777 million) on the basis of a case by Banier.

On the contrary, she filed a civil suit against Banier to recover a collection of master paintings, valued at around EUR 90 million (approx. USD 101 million) in 2017, which her mother had bequeathed to Banier in 2001. Sancton wrote that the two parties entered into a “secret deal wherein Françoise and Banier withdrew their reciprocal actions pending approval by a Paris judge.”

What else to know about Françoise Bettencourt Meyers?

Unlike her mother who often frequented social gatherings of the world’s mighty and wealthy, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers favours privacy.

As the head of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, she champions scientific research and the arts. Within the L’Oréal boardroom, she is a strategic leader, steering the company towards sustainable practices and digital innovation.

“She really lives inside her own cocoon. She lives mainly within the confines of her own family,” Sancton told the BBC.

Bettencourt Meyers lives in the family’s Art déco mansion located in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a wealthy suburb west of Paris. She also owns another building nearby, where she reportedly used to reside following her marriage and during the time of the Bettencourt Affair. She also owns a larger mansion on France’s Brittany coast, which served as her childhood home.

Bettencourt Meyers is a devout Catholic, who converted to Judaism after marrying her husband. She has authored two books — a five-volume study of the Bible and a genealogy of the Greek gods. Reports suggest that she plays the piano for several hours a day.

(Hero and Featured images: Francois Guillot/AFP)

Source: Prestige Online

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