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Meet the New ‘World’s Richest Woman,’ a 64-Year-Old Expert on Greek Gods Who Shuns the Spotlight

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Meet the New ‘World’s Richest Woman,’ a 64-Year-Old Expert on Greek Gods Who Shuns the Spotlight

Who is the world’s richest woman? After the death of reigning richest woman on earth L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt last week, the answer wasn’t immediately clear.
This article originally appeared on Money by Robe Wile

But Bloomberg has declared that Bettencourt’s only daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, is now officially the world’s richest woman, ahead of Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress. Bloomberg puts Bettencourt Meyers’ net worth at $42 billion, compared to $37.7 billion for Walton.

Bettencourt Meyers, 64, has rarely granted interviews and shuns the spotlight. According to Bloomberg, she is known for playing piano for several hours a day. An academic, she’s written a five-volume study of the Bible and a genealogy of the Greek gods.

“She really lives inside her own cocoon,” Tom Sancton, author of The Bettencourt Affair, told Bloomberg. “She lives mainly with the confines of her own family.”

But Bloomberg has declared that Bettencourt’s only daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, is now officially the world’s richest woman, ahead of Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress. Bloomberg puts Bettencourt Meyers’ net worth at $42 billion, compared to $37.7 billion for Walton.

Bettencourt Meyers, 64, has rarely granted interviews and shuns the spotlight. According to Bloomberg, she is known for playing piano for several hours a day. An academic, she’s written a five-volume study of the Bible and a genealogy of the Greek gods.

“She really lives inside her own cocoon,” Tom Sancton, author of The Bettencourt Affair, told Bloomberg. “She lives mainly with the confines of her own family.”

Bettencourt Meyers is arguably best known for bringing legal action against her mother, after the elder Bettencourt began giving away millions in assets and insurance to society photographer François-Marie Banier, with whom she’d struck up an unusual friendship. Bettencourt Meyers accused Banier of preying on her mother’s onsetting dementia. When Bettencourt Meyers sued, her mother responded by calling her daughter “une emmerdeuse” (a pain in the ass), according to Vanity Fair.

The case was ultimately decided in Bettencourt Meyers’ favor, and she and her two sons were named guardians of Liliane’s interests in 2011.

In an excerpt of The Bettencourt Affair published by TIME, Sancton, a former Paris bureau chief for TIME, wrote:

As Françoise tells it, Banier so dominated Liliane’s time that she found it increasingly difficult even to see her mother — though she lives across the street from the Bettencourt mansion in the posh Paris suburb of Neuilly. It seemed, she said, as if Liliane had been “pulled into a sect” by a “guru who cut me off from my family.” Françoise looked on Banier as a sort of sibling rival, who attempted to insert himself into the family as a surrogate son and drive a wedge into the already troubled relationship between mother and daughter.

Bettencourt Meyers’ family now controls its L’Oreal shares through a holding company called Tethys. Sancton told Money he “get[s] the impression that Françoise and her husband Jean-Pierre Meyers, the current president of Tethys, intend to invest more actively in backing new companies,” but likely won’t make any radical departures; its most recent investment was in a hospital group.

Sancton said the thing to watch now is L’Oreal’s relationship with Nestlé, which holds 23 percent of the company. An agreement between the two companies bars either one from changing its stock holdings until six months after Bettencourt’s death.

Any major changes could affect l’Oreal’s share price, and that would have an impact on Bettencourt Meyers’ place on the richest list.

“There has been speculation that Nestlé might either try to take over L’Oréal, or on the contrary, sell its stock beck to the French company and dissolve the partnership that has existed since 1974,” Sancton explained.

Bettencourt Meyers has ceded her seat on L’Oreal’s board to her son, Jean-Victor, just in his mid-20s. In a 2012 profile of him, the New York Times called Jean-Victor “the little prince” of the company — “a sheltered, publicity-shy scion with a taste for fashion but little experience in business affairs.”

Source: Money

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