Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L'Oreal cosmetics empire and the world's wealthiest woman, has died. She was 94.
Her death was announced in a statement from Jean-Paul Agon, chief executive officer at L'Oreal Group. She died Wednesday at her home in Neuilly, a suburb west of Paris, according to a company spokesman. No cause was given.
Bettencourt, the only child of L'Oreal founder Eugene Schueller, owned about one-third of the company's shares. During her lifetime, the Paris-based company grew from a small hair-dye supplier into the largest maker of beauty products with more than 30 brands, including Lancome and Garnier, sold in about 140 countries. In 2016, the company reported revenue of $27 billion.
Her net worth was $42.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
"Friendship, taste for life, knowledge, health. I would say that these are the things that are the most valuable," Bettencourt said in a rare interview with French literary magazine L'Egoiste in 1988. "Everything that isn't measured is what matters most."
After the 2007 death of her husband, French politician Andre Bettencourt, the media-shy heiress spent her final years embroiled in a legal spat with their only child, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers.
Bettencourt Meyers claimed her mother was mentally unfit and had been manipulated by her entourage, especially one friend to whom she gave about $1.2 billion in gifts and cash. In 2011, a French judge assigned Bettencourt's daughter and two grandsons as guardians.
Liliane Bettencourt's fortune now passes on to Bettencourt Meyers, 64, who heads the family's investment company. She succeeds her mother as the world's richest woman.
In the 1988 interview, Bettencourt discussed the role that wealth may have played in her relationships. "Obviously, it's surely more comfortable to be certain that you are loved for your soul," she said. "But I didn't have this concern." She said when she sometimes wondered whether she was loved for her money, "I have smiled and said to myself, 'If it's more, so much the better.' "