Liliane Bettencourt - Fortune - Billionaire list

Liliane Bettencourt
Liliane Bettencourt (born 1922), is the principal share holder of L'Oréal and one of the wealthiest people in the world.

Bettencourt married French politician André Bettencourt in 1950. Now a widow, she lives in Paris and has one child, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, who sits on L'Oréal's board of directors.

Bettencourt inherited the L'Oréal fortune in 1957 after the death of her father and L'Oréal's founder Eugène Schueller. In 1973 a holding company named Gesparal was formed to allow L'Oréal to diversify and become multinational. Gesparal holds 53.7% of L'Oréal's stock. Bettencourt controls 51% of Gesparal and Nestlé controls 49%. Through this arrangement, Bettencourt technically owns about 27.5% of L'Oréal, but she is the majority shareholder in the holding company that is L'Oréal's majority shareholder. Nestlé and the Bettencourt family have made various agreements over the years aimed at maintaining the current levels of ownership for the rest of Liliane Bettencourt's lifetime. In 2004, a change in ownership arrangement dissolved Gesparal and placed L'Oréal under direct control by two main shareholders. The company onwership breakdown: 27.5% by Liliane Bettencourt, 26.4% by Nestlé, the remaining 46.1% are publically traded.

Bettencourt's family has a reputation for secrecy, partially due to controversy surrounding allegations of collusion with the Vichy France regime and the Nazis during World War II.

$17.4 billion as of 2005.
$18.8 billion as of 2004.