Who is the richest woman in the world?

Francoise Bettencourt Meyers is the richest woman in the world. What is she known for and how did she make her billions?

phone screen displaying L'Oreal
(Image credit: © Getty Images)

While you might not recognise the name Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, you will probably be familiar with the brand that has made her the richest woman in the world – L’Oréal. 

According to Bloomberg, Meyers is worth a whopping $99.9 billion, taking her close to becoming the first woman to generate wealth of $100 billion.

Although she doesn’t make it on our top five richest people in the world, Meyers is listed as the 15th wealthiest person on the index, not far behind the likes of Larry Ellison and Warren Buffett. alongside Larry Ellison and Warren Buffett

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We dive into the world of Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, how she made her billions and where L’Oréal is today. 

Who is Francoise Bettencourt Meyers?

Francoise Bettencourt Meyers's wealth comes from her stake in L'Oréal – the world's largest cosmetics company by market capitalisation.

She inherited her stake in L'Oréal from her mother, Liliane Bettencourt, the daughter of Eugène Schueller, the company’s founder.

Liliane Bettencourt passed away in 2017 and left her fortune to Francoise.

Francoise serves as the chairwoman of the company's board and has a significant influence on the company’s day-to-day operations. She’s pushed the company to modernise its image, advocating for improved sustainability and social responsibility targets, helping L'Oréal change with the times and maintain its position as a leader in the cosmetics industry.

As well as acting as the chairwoman of L'Oréal’s board, Francoise and her husband, Jean-Pierre Meyers, founded the Bettencourt Meyers Family Foundation, which supports environmental, social justice and human rights initiatives.

How the richest woman in the world earned her fortune

L'Oréal has a rich history dating back over a century.

Founded in 1909 by French chemist Eugène Schueller, the company originally produced hair dye, but it expanded rapidly into different product categories under the stewardship of its founder into the cosmetics market. Soon, the business was making a range of beauty products as well as hair products.

The company grew rapidly in Europe and then expanded internationally in the 1950s, opening offices in the United States and other countries worldwide.

One of the key factors that contributed to L'Oréal's success is its commitment to research and development. Its commitment has long been recognised as industry-leading, and many analysts have touted this as the reason the group has maintained its position as a market leader over the years.

L'Oréal’s history is intertwined with its innovation. In 1963, the company launched its first shampoo specifically designed for coloured hair, and in 1973 it introduced the first hair colour product that didn't require a separate shampoo. These might seem like small changes today, but at the time they were revolutionary.

In the final few decades of the 1990s, L'Oréal continued to expand its product line and reach, focusing on research and development as well as acquisitions.

Its product offerings included skincare, makeup and fragrances, and it also acquired several other brands to diversify its portfolio further. 

Some of the best-known brands in the L'Oréal family include Garnier, Giorgio Armani Beauty, La Roche-Posay and Urban Decay.  

Currently, 36 global brands sit under L'Oréal Group, with four different divisions. 

Where is L'Oréal today?

The brand has established itself in the world of global skincare and cosmetics, which has ultimately led to its recent successes. 

According to its latest annual report, L'Oréal marked a third consecutive year of double-digit growth in 2023. Plus, the brand has become the ‘global market leader (in sales) in luxury beauty,’ the report states. 

L'Oréal is also jumping on the artificial intelligence (AI) bandwagon with its new partnership with tech giant Meta. The initiative called the New Codes of Beauty Creator Program will see a mix of beauty influencers and creators use AI to create content. The company aims to “unleash technological creativity in this new creator marketing era.” Three of its brands are part of the campaign, including L'Oréal Paris, Lancôme and La Roche-Posay. 

Speaking of beauty creators, L'Oréal also leverages the world of influencer marketing. It collaborates with more than 60,000 influencers and, according to the company, it had a 29% share of beauty influence in 2023. The group’s brands have their own ambassadors, referred to as the ‘Dream Team’. The list includes singer Camilla Cabello, actor Andie Macdowell and its latest addition, Simone Ashley from Netflix’s Bridgerton

Despite its success, L'Oréal has had its share of challenges. In recent years, it’s faced criticism for selling products in China, which still insists certain ingredients are tested on animals.

Since then, the brand has launched its ‘for beauty with no animal testing’ initiative, promising consumers it’s working to eliminate all animal testing. 

The company has also set ambitious goals to reduce its environmental impact and promote responsible-sourcing practices.

As part of its fighting for climate change campaign, the brand has set targets to reduce its environmental impact. It includes using 100% renewable energy on all of its sites by 2025 and lowering its CO2 emissions by 25% through innovation on its products. 

Jacob Wolinsky

Jacob is the founder and CEO of ValueWalk. What started as a hobby 10 years ago turned into a well-known financial media empire focusing in particular on simplifying the opaque world of the hedge fund world. Before doing ValueWalk full time, Jacob worked as an equity analyst specializing in mid and small-cap stocks. Jacob also worked in business development for hedge funds. He lives with his wife and five children in New Jersey. Full Disclosure: Jacob only invests in broad-based ETFs and mutual funds to avoid any conflict of interest.

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