The glass ceiling in global wealth just shattered into a million sparkling pieces, courtesy of Francoise Bettencourt Meyers. The L’Oreal heiress, renowned for her unassuming persona and intellectual pursuits, has etched her name in the annals of history as the first woman to accumulate a staggering $100 billion fortune. This landmark achievement celebrates an individual’s triumph and spotlights the burgeoning clout of France’s fashion and cosmetics industries on the world stage.

Bettencourt Meyers’ financial leap to $100.1 billion, as tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, aligns with L’Oréal SA’s soaring stock values. Initially founded by her grandfather, the beauty empire is witnessing its most prosperous phase since 1998. This upward trajectory has positioned Francoise as the 12th wealthiest individual globally, right behind Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim. 

The heiress joins the league of fellow French billionaire Bernard Arnault of LVMH, whose net worth is $179 billion. This is more than a personal triumph; it’s a testament to the transformative power of the beauty and fashion industries in the global economy. This landmark moment symbolizes the evolving narrative of economic success in the 21st century, where industries once viewed as purely glamorous now command significant global influence and offer new paradigms of business leadership.

Besides L’Oréal, France’s luxury retail sector has birthed a legion of ultra-wealthy families, from the Hermes International SCA clan to the Wertheimer brothers, the masterminds behind Chanel. At the heart of L’Oréal’s global dominance is a €241 billion ($268 billion) behemoth, steered by a board that includes Bettencourt Meyers and her two sons, Jean-Victor and Nicolas Meyers. Despite the family’s substantial 35% stake, the company has thrived under non-family executives since its inception in 1909.

rlphyJ03DhSoKoBOulS8VaGZeZrm9mgRz10obnPWb5v9j2qHPAl8GRtxHZkMPQIqVlpp4Ucdvk7YfrZw0rfs7W8LcRd oMojqMP1uWNEbdRYMRTvtCQUYz6n4QqurIyHuTdhuqFQOXH8MM6PdmyhymU

L’Oréal, which experienced rapid growth pre-pandemic, faced a setback during the global health crisis as lockdowns reduced the demand for makeup. However, the company swiftly bounced back, with luxury product sales soaring, leading to a 35% increase in share value this year. Analysts predict a continued upward trajectory for L’Oréal, citing the company’s diverse product range and global reach as key resilience factors.

Shying away from the limelight, 70-year-old Bettencourt Meyers is no ordinary billionaire. An avid lover of arts and literature, she immerses herself in literary and musical pursuits. Her published works span a comprehensive study of the Bible and a detailed genealogy of Greek gods, reflecting a deep-seated love for theology and mythology. Music, too, claims a significant portion of her day, with the piano being her instrument of choice.

Inheriting the bulk of her wealth in 2017 after her mother’s demise, Liliane Bettencourt, Bettencourt Meyers’ journey to riches ended a tumultuous chapter marked by legal battles over the family fortune and Liliane’s capacity to manage it. This gripping saga, intertwined with political scandal and secret recordings, was recently dramatized in Netflix’s 2023 documentary, L’Affaire Bettencourt.

Beyond L’Oréal, Bettencourt Meyers chairs the family’s holding company, Téthys, and oversees Téthys Invest SAS, a venture she co-founded with her husband, Jean-Pierre Meyers. Téthys Invest, steered by former investment banker Alexandre Benais, ventures into diverse sectors like insurance, fashion, and healthcare, exemplifying a strategic diversification of the family’s wealth. Téthys Invest’s recent acquisitions include stakes in the French insurance broker April Group, the fashionable Sezane brand, and the private hospital operator Elsan, partially financed through L’Oréal dividends.