Liliane Bettencourt (born 21 October 1922) is a French heiress, socialite, businesswoman and philanthropist. She is one of the principal shareholders of L'Oréal and, with a fortune estimated at US$23.5 billion, is one of the wealthiest people in the world.
Bettencourt was born in Paris, France, the only child of Eugène Schueller, the founder of L'Oréal, one of the world's largest cosmetics and beauty companies. Her mother died in 1927 when Liliane was 5 years old, and she formed a close bond with her father, who later married Liliane's British governess. At the age of 15, she joined her father’s company as an apprentice, mixing cosmetics and labelling bottles of shampoo.
In 1950, she married French politician André Bettencourt, who served as a cabinet minister in French governments of the 1960s and 1970s and rose to become deputy chairman of L’Oréal. Bettencourt had been a member of La Cagoule, a violent French fascist group that Liliane's father had funded and supported in the 1930s and that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. After the war, her husband, like other members of La Cagoule, was given refuge at L'Oréal despite his politically inconvenient past. Eventually, the Bettencourts settled in an Art Moderne mansion built in 1951 on rue de Delabordère in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. They had one daughter, Françoise, who was born on 10 July 1953.
In 1957, Liliane Bettencourt inherited the L'Oréal fortune when her father died, becoming the principal shareholder of L'Oréal. In 1963, the company went public, although Bettencourt continued to own a majority stake. In 1974, she exchanged almost half of her stake for a three percent (3%) stake in Nestlé S.A.
As of 31 December 2009, Ms Bettencourt owned 185,661,879 (31.0%) of the outstanding shares of L'Oréal (of which, 76,440,541 (12.76%) shares are effectively held in trust for her daughter), while the remainder is owned as follows: 178,381,021 (29.78%) shares by Nestlé, 216,384,762 (36.12%) shares are publicly held and the remainder are held as treasury stock or in the company savings plan. The Bettencourt family and Nestle act in concert pursuant to a shareholders’ agreement. Ms Bettencourt is a member of the board of directors of L'Oréal, a position she has held since 1995. Bettencourt’s daughter and her daughter’s husband (Jean-Pierre Meyers) are also members of the board of directors.
From : www.wikipedia.org