Liliane Bettencourt, the L'Oreal cosmetics heiress and the world's richest woman, has died at her home in a chic Parisian suburb. She was 94. Bettencourt's daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, said in a written statement Thursday that her mother "left peacefully" overnight in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Liliane Bettencourt was the only child of Eugene Schueller, who founded L'Oreal in the early 20th century. Forbes magazine estimated her fortune to be worth $39.5 billion this year. Liliane Bettencourt inherited the L'Oreal fortune upon the death of her father in 1957. When the company went public six years later, she continued to own a majority stake, reports the AP.
Bettencourt's name has been involved in a politico-financial scandal known in France as the "Bettencourt Affair," which has wound its way through French courts and newspapers for years. The case stemmed from a 2007 complaint filed by Bettencourt's daughter accusing one of her mother's closest friends, the photographer Francois-Marie Banier, of manipulating the elderly widow into giving him artwork and cash. In 2015, a French court handed Banier a three-year prison sentence on charges of swindling millions of euros from Bettencourt by taking advantage of her weak mental state. The court acquitted a former ally of former President Nicolas Sarkozy in the case. Born in 1922 in Paris, she married French politician Andre Bettencourt at the age of 27; he died in 2007. She is survived by her daughter, Francoise, who was born in 1953. (Read more Liliane Bettencourt stories.)