Liliane Bettencourt, the French heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune and a family legacy of fascist associations died on Wednesday, September 20 after a brief illness.
Mrs. Bettencourt was ranked by Forbes this year as the richest woman in the world, putting her net worth at $39.5 billion.
She was the only child of Eugène Schueller, a chemist who, in the kitchen of his Paris apartment in 1907, created a hair dye he called Auréale.
His business, renamed L’Oréal in 1939, acquired Lancôme, Maybelline, Helena Rubinstein, Giorgio Armani and other brands, creating a giant that employs more than 77,000 people in 130 countries, had revenues of almost $26 billion in 2016 and is a prestigious economic engine for France.
After Mr. Schueller died in 1957, his daughter was left with billions and controlling interest in L’Oréal. Liliane became a director, but took a largely passive role as her father’s successors expanded the company around the world, ballooning the value of her holdings.
Her largess was legendary even as she gave millions to education, medical research, humanitarian projects, museums and the arts.
She is survived by her only daughter and two grandsons.