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Who is the world’s richest woman?

Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers is the wealthiest woman in the world. Image: Getty

The world’s richest woman, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, is the billionaire heiress and chairwoman of makeup giant, L’Oréal. 

Bettencourt-Meyers has an estimated net worth of US$59.1 billion (AU$85.7 billion), with the 66-year-old the granddaughter of the L’Oréal founder Eugene Schueller. 

L’Oréal was founded in 1909 after Schueller invented a hair dye formula, with the company soon expanding to include other cosmetics. 

Bettencourt-Meyers became heiress in 2017 when her mother, Liliane Bettencourt, died. 

The billionaire has also published books on Jewish-Christian relations and Greek gods. 

Today, the L’Oréal inheritance makes Bettencourt-Meyers the 15th-richest person in the world. The world’s wealthiest man, Jeff Bezos, has an estimated net worth of US$116.4 billion.

Inheritance controversy

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 24: Liliane Bettencourt and her daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers attend the Giorgio Armani Prive Haute-Couture Spring / Summer 2012 show as part of Paris Fashion Week at Grand Palais on January 24, 2012 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

But the inheritance wasn’t without controversy. Bettencourt-Meyers in 2007 filed a criminal complaint against famous French photographer François-Marie Banier, who she accused of taking advantage of her elderly mother to defraud her of US$1 billion. 

Bettencourt has showered the photographer with lavish gifts including artworks, a private island in the Seychelles and cash. 

Banier was in 2015 found guilty of defrauding Bettencourt, but Bettencourt-Meyers’ case had already led to two things: a frayed relationship between Bettencourt-Meyers and her mother, with the two only reconciling in 2010, and a major political scandal. 

Bettencourt’s butler had secretly recorded hours of conversations as he was concerned Bettencourt was indeed being swindled. The tapes allegedly exposed how Bettencourt had named Banier her sole heir, but also suggested  then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy had been soliciting money from Bettencourt. 

Today, Bettencourt-Meyers and her family own 33 per cent of L’Oréal stock, and have served on the board since 1997. 

She has two children, Jean-Victor and Nicolas, and is married to Jean-Pierre Meyers, who is the grandson of a rabbi murdered at Auschwitz. 

Her decision with Jean-Pierre to raise their children in the Jewish faith allegedly caused tensions in the wealthy family, with her grandfather, Eugene Schueller, a suspected Nazi sympathiser. 

L’Oréal

L’Oréal owns Maybelline, NYX, Urban Decay, Redken, Lancome and Kiehl’s among its 36 brands and employs 86,000 people around the world. 

It etched €26.9 billion (AU$43.5 billion) in sales in 2018.

CEO Jean-Paul Agon last year said pollution has helped those sales, noting that those living in urban areas face more challenging beauty conditions. 

“But we are not encouraging it. ... Where there is pollution, we want to protect our consumers,” Agon told Market Watch.

“When you live in a city your skin, your hair is challenged more than if you were living in a rural area, so you need more shampoos, conditioners, skin care, hydrating creams, anti-UV, etc.

“Urban life means more socialisation, and more socialisation means more beauty consumption.”

More recently, L’Oréal announced it would launch AI skincare ‘Perso’. It uses a motorised system to make personalised formulas for serums and moisturisers. 

It does this by analysing the user’s skin condition from a photo uploaded, considering pores, wrinkles and pigmentation. Then, it looks at the environmental conditions the user is living in, before considering the user’s preference before doling out the personalised formula.

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