After a controversial life living in the lap of obscene luxury, the world’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Henriette Charlotte Bettencourt is now dead at 94
Heiress Liliane Bettencourt, the world’s richest woman, was reported as dead by her daughter Francois Bettencourt Meyer, who claimes her mother had “left peacefully.” Bettencourt died with a net worth of approximately $44 billion and left behind countless financial scandals that rocked France for many years. According to Forbes, she was the 14th richest person on Earth at the time of her death.
Bettencourt was the only daughter of chemist Eugene Schueller who founded the L’Oreal cosmetics company in 1909. Her mother, Louise Madeleine Berthe passed away when she was only five.
Schueller raised her and kept her close by his side. Therefore, she spent her early years interwoven into her father’s evolution of the business. Bettencourt would attend board meetings as well as work as an apprentice labeling shampoo bottles.
The stain of Nazi connections
Notoriety would stain the company when Bettencourt’s father professed sympathies with the Nazis. This stain would linger for decades, despite subsequent efforts to clean it off. The group Schueller was involved in, La Cagoule, was particularly violent and fascist. To complicate this dirty family affair, Bettencourt married a politician, in 1950. Shockingly, he also was closely involved with La Cagoule. The now late Andre Bettencourt was also a French cabinet minister during the 1960s and 70s.
Later, Schueller’s granddaughter Bettencourt Meyer would attempt to unsully this sordid past via her marriage to a Jew. Her husband, Jean-Pierre Meyers, had a Rabbi grandfather who traumatically perished at Auschwitz. Bettencourt Meyer chose specifically to raise their two sons within the Jewish faith. This connection would create tensions between her and her mother and father, which overlapped into the financial fiascos in Bettencourt’s later years.
Bettencourt ended up at the center of many financial scandals. Her daughter alleged that her mother’s innocence and naivety created a breeding ground for exploitation. Initially, Bettencourt strongly defended her generous gifts to a platonic male friend, celebrity photographer, Francois-Marie Banier.
In 2010, Bettencourt Meyer fought in court to prove that her mother suffered dementia and that Banier had swindled her out of billions of dollars. Allegedly, Bettencourt bestowed upon Banier rare artworks by the likes of Matisse and Picasso. Furthermore, she organised for him life insurance policies worth over 400 million euros. Additionally, she supposedly offered Banier the gift of an island.
Ultimately, Banier ended up in prison, the court ruling that he had indeed exploited a vulnerable Bettencourt. The proof in the pudding being around 21 hours of tapes that Battencourt’s butler had recorded, who also feared that Banier was exploiting her. However, this was merely the tip of the iceberg of financial scandals that would rock the French heiress.
In the same year as Banier’s exploitation was exposed in the courts, Bettencourt stood accused of tax evasion and financially tampering in political affairs. In addition to the Butler’s tapes about Banier, further recordings exposed conversations between Bettencourt and her financial adviser.
These conversations suggested that Bettencourt was hoarding money in Swiss bank accounts. Additionally, they suggested that Bettencourt had given to the then French budget minister Eric Woerth copious amounts of cash. Amounts well beyond the legal limit. Ironically, Woerth was pushing through a campaign to catch wealthy tax dodgers. Coincidently, Bettencourt still managed to receive a 30 million euro tax rebate somehow.
L’Oreal’s bloodstained legacy
L’Oreal is how most people will most remember Bettencourt. According to the official company website, Chairman and CEO Jean-Paul Agon declared: “she always encouraged us to dare, to take risks, to go ever further. To fully realize our ambition to turn L’Oreal into a global champion.”
Bettencourt inherited captaincy of the ship that declared “Because I’m worth it.” Many celebrities have dreamed of gaining the status of being the face of L’Oreal. However, L’Oreal is yet to extract itself from enabling animal cruelty completely. Indeed, Bettencourt’s company has tried to strive to implement cruelty-free ways to test its products.
Her legacy includes being in charge of a business that has developed in vitro human skin to test cosmetics on, as opposed to the cruel alternative of using animals. Nevertheless, the company still exports to China and allows that nation to test its products on innocent animals, which is abhorrent.
The future of L’Oreal
According to CNN Money, L’Oreal may now take an entirely new direction. Many suspect that Nestle will increase their stake in the company and make a takeover. With Nestle’s sordid track record of destroying the environment, natural habitats and dangerously promoting baby formula in 3rd world countries, it is unknown whether the brand will take a turn for the better, or a turn for the worst now that Bettencourt is no longer of this world.