French L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, the richest woman (and 14th richest person) in the world, has passed away at the age of 94. The main shareholder of the popular make-up company – and head of a philanthropic foundation – Bettencourt had an estimated personal fortune of $49 billion (Forbes).
Sadly, the tycoon’s old age was shrouded in legal drama and mental illness. She was declared unfit to run her affairs in 2011, after it was discovered she had been suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for five years.
She left the board of L’Oréal in 2012 and was rarely seen in public since, but Bettencourt still made headlines regularly as members of her entourage were accused of exploiting the ageing heiress’ failing health.
Many were charged, and even her only daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy were dragged into the bitter proceedings. In May 2015, eight were convicted of taking advantage of Bettencourt, three of whom were given suspended prison sentences.
With almost 90,000 employees in 140 countries, L’Oréal is one of the world’s largest beauty companies, owning Maybelline New York, The Body Shop, and marketing luxury products under brands including Lancôme, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani.