Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the heiress to the L’Oréal empire, has reached a remarkable milestone by becoming the first woman in history to amass a fortune of $100 billion. This achievement not only highlights her success, but it also symbolizes the growing influence of the fashion and cosmetics industries in France.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, on December 28, Bettencourt Meyers’ wealth reached a staggering $100.2 billion. This significant milestone was accompanied by L’Oréal SA’s shares reaching a record high, making it the company’s most profitable year since 1998.

However, despite this historic feat, her fortune is still overshadowed by Bernard Arnault, the founder of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE. Arnault currently ranks second in the global billionaire rankings, with a fortune of $179.4 billion, surpassing that of Bettencourt Meyers.

The success of Bettencourt Meyers can be attributed to France’s increasing dominance in the luxury retail sector. Her remarkable wealth has paved the way for other ultra-wealthy families in the industry, such as the founders of Hermes International SCA, who have amassed Europe’s largest family fortune, and the Wertheimer brothers, owners of the iconic fashion brand Chanel.

At the age of 70, Bettencourt Meyers holds the position of vice-chair on the board of L’Oréal. Alongside her family, they are the largest shareholders in the company, owning close to 35% of the shares, valued at €241 billion ($268 billion). Her sons, Jean-Victor Meyers and Nicolas Meyers, are also directors within the company.

Despite her immense wealth, Bettencourt Meyers is known for keeping a low profile and shunning the extravagant social life associated with the ultra-rich. She spends her time playing the piano for hours each day and has even published two books, one of which is a five-volume study of the Bible.

Bettencourt Meyers inherited her mother’s fortune in 2017 following the passing of Liliane Bettencourt. However, their relationship was complex and surrounded by legal battles and scandals during the early 2000s. Netflix recently released a documentary called “L’Affaire Bettencourt,” which delves into this saga and includes secret recordings made by a butler, as well as the involvement of a former French president.

While L’Oréal faced challenges during the pandemic due to decreased makeup usage during lockdowns, the company quickly rebounded as consumers splurged on luxury items. This year, the company’s shares surged by 35%. Analysts predict that the stock could rise another 12% in the coming year, highlighting the resilience of L’Oréal’s diverse product range.

In addition to her role at L’Oréal, Bettencourt Meyers chairs her family’s holding company, Téthys, which holds the L’Oréal stake. Her husband, Jean-Pierre Meyers, serves as the chief executive. Téthys Invest SAS, a subsidiary established by the couple in 2016, invests in projects that do not directly compete with L’Oréal. Led by former investment banker Alexandre Benais, the company focuses on making long-term investments in entrepreneurial ventures.

Téthys Invest has recently acquired a stake in French insurance broker April Group and has also invested in fashion brand Sezane and French private hospital operator Elsan. These investments are partly funded by L’Oréal dividends, and the company aims to continue supporting innovative projects and entrepreneurial endeavors.

Useful Links:
1. Forbes article on Francoise Bettencourt Meyers’ achievement
2. Bloomberg Billionaires Index