L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt has died at age 94
When it comes to busting glass ceilings, being known as the world's richest woman is perhaps the greatest achievement possible. The 'lean in' campaign of feminism encourages a kind of capitalist feminism, and proposes wealth as the pathway to liberation. If we can remove men from boardrooms, and instead put women n boardrooms, the story goes, the world will become a much better place.
While this theory has yet to be tested, Liliane Bettencourt lived it to the fullest. A French business-woman, she was ninety-four years old when she died on Thursday, September 21st, at her home in Paris.
"Liliane Bettencourt died this night at home. She would have been 95 on October 21. My mother left peacefully," said Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, who is her daughter.
The Bettencourt family has a massive 33% stake in L'Oreal after all these years, and Liliane Bettencourt's net worth has been placed at around 39 billion dollars. Who knew you could get so rich off of shampoo and beauty products, right? But it makes sense, given that L'Oreal is literally everywhere in the world. It must pull in an insane amount of annual revenue. The world's richest man, Bill Gates, is worth about $85 billion, off all that Microsoft money.
Bettencourt's daughter also said: “I would like to reiterate, on behalf of our family, our entire commitment and loyalty to L‘Oreal and to renew my confidence in its President Jean-Paul Agon and his teams worldwide.”
L'Oreal has come under fire recently for its decision to fire a transgender model, Munroe Bergdorf, after she said that all white people are racists on social media. The comment was stupid, but the tension between corporate contracts and freedom of speech remains a major issue in America. In the debate over how much governments should restrict speech, we often forget that our employers, as well as information controllers like Facebook and Google, have more direct influence on our day-to-day lives than Trump and his administration generally do. Corporations get a free pass, but that's ending. Outcry emerges every time an employee is censored by their employer for a point of view.
Nestle actually owns 23% of L'Oreal. This is because in the 1970s, Bettencourt was afraid that a socialist France may nationalize L'Oreal, and prevent her from earning maximal profits. She involved the Swiss company to take a good portion of it so that some percentage of the company would remain privatized. It's safe to say that Mrs. Bettencourt put herself and her profits first, as all billionaires do.
Since 2007, a number of controversies in France erupted surrounding Mrs. Bettencourt being taken advantage of financially as it appeared that she struggled with dementia. She gave a billion dollars worth of art and insurance to a celebrity photographer, and Patrice de Maistre, the man who managed her finances, was accused of funneling money to Nicolas Sarkozy's then-2007 Presidential campaign. Sarkozy was no stranger to corruption, though all charges were dropped. The Bettencourt affair damaged Sarkozy's credibility in the final half of his Presidency.