You’d think that with an estimated worth of over $40 billion, everyone would know who Liliane Bettencourt is. She’s the world’s richest woman, in case you didn’t know.
Her father, Eugène Schueller, started the French cosmetics company L’Oréal in 1907. Bettencourt, who was born in 1922, inherited her father’s fortune after he passed away in 1957.
But Bettencourt is more than just an heiress. She took an interest in business from a very young age and began working alongside her father as an apprentice at just 15-years-old.
However, in October 2011, a judge ruled that Bettencourt was no longer mentally capable of managing the family empire. Bettencourt, who was 88 at the time, was suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Her family argued that she was being reckless with the family fortune, so the judge ordered that she be placed under the legal guardianship of her grandson.
In 2012, Bettencourt’s grandson officially took over her position on L’Oréal’s board. Today, she retains 33% of the company.
But Bettencourt shouldn’t be remembered for her mental ailments. She has achieved much throughout her lifetime, and her successful career ought to remain the highlight of her legacy.
Under her leadership, L’Oréal acquired several high-end beauty brands, including Lancôme, Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, and Urban Decay. These turned out to be excellent buys, as it significantly expanded the L’Oréal empire and increased sales worldwide.
But aside from being a successful businesswoman, Bettencourt is also one of France’s most celebrated philanthropists.
In 1987, she founded the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation alongside her husband and daughter. According to philanthropies.org, the Foundation operates on an annual budget of approximately 15 million euros. The charity puts 55% of its monies towards scientific education and research, 33% towards humanitarian and social initiatives, and 12% towards culture and arts funds.
Bettencourt has led a remarkable life and as such, deserves to be praised just as much as the world’s wealthiest men. She should be given the same level of notoriety as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos.