Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s L’Oréal? In Francoise Bettencourt Meyers case, it’s both. The L’Oréal heiress, who is also the chairwoman of her family’s holding company, is the world’s richest woman, with a fortune of $49.3 billion.
Bettencourt Meyers’ fortune increased by $7.1 billion, or 17%, since last year thanks to stellar results at the makeup giant, of which she and her immediate family own a 33% stake. An estimated 90% of her wealth is tied to shares of the company, which recorded its best sales growth in more than a decade last year with total revenue coming in at $30.6 billion. Revenue in Asia Pacific jumped 20%, driven by China; the region has now overtaken North America in terms of sales.
While it’s Bettencourt Meyers’ first official year as richest woman, her name is no stranger to the spot. For the past decade, the world’s richest woman has either been a Bettencourt or Walton. In fact Bettencourt Meyers first overtook Alice Walton, last year’s richest woman, in March 2018, just days after we finalized our annual list.
Liliane Bettencourt was the richest woman for most of the first 14 years Forbes published the billionaires’ list. In the years following 2001, she was overtaken some years by Walmart founder Sam Walton’s daughter Alice Walton and other years by Sam’s widow Helen Walton. Bettencourt took back the number one spot in 2006. She and Alice Walton’s sister-in-law Christy Walton took turns holding the title for the remainder of the past decade.
In 2010, buoyed by strong Walmart stock, Christy Walton, Sam Walton’s daughter-in-law, became the richest woman. Forbes understood at the time that she received the bulk of her husband John’s fortune when he died in a plane crash in 2005. She continued as the world’s richest woman for the next four years, but in 2015, previously sealed documents revealed that she had inherited just one-sixth of his fortune. Christy and John’s son, Lukas, received one-third of John Walton’s estate, while the rest went to charity.
The Forbes World’s Billionaires list is a snapshot of wealth using stock prices and exchange rates from February 8, 2019. Some people will become richer or poorer between then and the publication of the rankings, or within days of publication.