Liliane Bettencourt : The Story of L’Oréal Heiress


Liliane Bettencourt, a French heiress and businesswoman, was one of the wealthiest women in the world, primarily due to her inheritance of a majority stake in L’Oréal, the global cosmetics giant founded by her father, Eugène Schueller. Although not directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, Bettencourt played a significant role in safeguarding her family’s interests and ensuring the continued success of L’Oréal.

Early Life and Family

Born on October 21, 1922, in Paris, France, Liliane Schueller was the only child of Eugène Schueller, a chemist who founded L’Oréal in 1909. From a young age, she was exposed to the world of cosmetics and the family business. At 15, she joined L’Oréal as an apprentice, labeling bottles and mixing products.

Marriage and Inheritance

In 1950, Liliane married André Bettencourt, a French politician who later served as a minister in several governments. The couple had one daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers. In 1957, upon the death of her father, Liliane inherited a significant stake in L’Oréal, becoming the company’s largest shareholder.

Role in L’Oréal

While not actively involved in the management of L’Oréal, Bettencourt maintained a close relationship with the company’s leadership and regularly attended shareholder meetings. She fiercely defended her family’s interests and played a crucial role in several key decisions, including the appointment of Lindsay Owen-Jones as CEO in 1988 and the company’s acquisition of Nestlé’s stake in 2014.

Philanthropy and Legacy

Bettencourt was also known for her philanthropic endeavors. She and her husband established the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation in 1987, which supports projects in the fields of medical research, education, and social causes. Additionally, she was a patron of the arts, donating to numerous museums and cultural institutions.

Career Timeline

1922Born in Paris, France
1937Joins L’Oréal as an apprentice
1950Marries André Bettencourt
1957Inherits a majority stake in L’Oréal upon her father’s death
1987Establishes the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation with her husband
2017Passes away at the age of 94

Liliane Bettencourt’s legacy is intertwined with the success of L’Oréal. As a guardian of her family’s interests and a generous philanthropist, she made a lasting impact on the cosmetics industry and French society as a whole. Her story serves as an inspiration to women in business and a testament to the power of family legacy in the world of entrepreneurship.