Françoise Bettencourt Meyers: Leading as the Wealthiest Woman Globally
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, a French businesswoman, philanthropist, and Vice Chairman of L’Oréal has risen to prominence on the international stage. Born on July 10, 1953, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, she transcends being solely the heiress to a cosmetic empire; she is, in fact, the richest woman in the world, boasting an estimated net worth of 9,790 crores USD (2024), as per Forbes.
The Family Heritage
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers’ extraordinary journey is intricately woven into the tapestry of L’Oréal, the global beauty and cosmetics behemoth founded by her grandfather, Eugène Schueller. Following her father’s passing in 1957, her mother, Liliane Bettencourt, inherited both his fortune and control of the company, becoming a notable figure in France, known for her glamorous lifestyle and high-profile events.
Despite the family’s societal standing, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers charted a different course. She demonstrated a lesser inclination towards the glittering world of her parents and instead focused on her passions, including playing the piano and avid reading. This divergence in temperament eventually led to a strained relationship between mother and daughter.
A Complex Mother-Daughter Dynamic
The relationship between Françoise Bettencourt Meyers and her mother, Liliane, was intricate and occasionally contentious. Liliane often characterised her daughter as “a cold child.” Strains between them emerged during Françoise’s teenage years, as she steadfastly pursued personal interests and dedicated herself to motherhood, regardless of the wealth and privilege surrounding her.
A Bold Life Choice: Embracing Judaism
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers’ personal life came under public scrutiny when she married Jean-Pierre Meyers, the grandson of a rabbi who tragically perished at Auschwitz during World War II. Her conversion to Judaism and the Jewish upbringing of their children, Jean-Victor and Nicolas, added a distinctive layer to their family dynamics.
A Controversial Inheritance Saga
The Bettencourt family’s involvement in controversies extended beyond their personal lives. In 2008, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers sued François-Marie Banier for accepting money from her mother, Liliane, leading to the Woerth-Bettencourt scandal that gained international attention. Despite these controversies, the family retained a substantial 33% stake in L’Oréal, underscoring the enduring link between the family and the company.
Continuing the Legacy
The passing of Liliane Bettencourt in September 2017 marked a significant shift. With an estimated net worth of approximately $39.5 billion at the time, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers entered the ranks of the top 20 richest individuals globally. Carrying forward the family’s tradition of philanthropy, she and L’Oréal pledged a substantial $226 million to restore the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral after a devastating fire.
A Legacy Beyond Wealth
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers’ narrative extends beyond immense wealth; it is a tale of individualism and resilience. Choosing a path distinct from her family’s societal role, she embraced a life enriched by personal interests and a commitment to family. As Vice Chairman of L’Oréal, she continues to play a pivotal role in a company that has been central to her family’s legacy for generations. Françoise Bettencourt Meyers’ journey serves as a testament to her strength and determination in navigating the complexities of wealth, family dynamics, and personal values while embodying her role as the world’s wealthiest woman.