PARIS: French businesswoman and billionaire Liliane Bettencourt, whose family founded L‘Oreal and still owns the largest stake in the cosmetics giant, has died aged 94, her daughter said on Thursday.
Bettencourt, listed by Forbes as the world’s richest woman, was the heiress to the beauty and cosmetics company her father founded a century ago as a maker of hair dye.
Her death opens a new phase for L‘Oreal, France’s fourth-largest listed company, altering the relationship it has with key shareholder Nestle (NESN.S), the Swiss food company.
Bettencourt and her children owned 33 percent of the company. Her daughter Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers said in a statement the family remained committed to L‘Oreal and its management team.
“My mother left peacefully,” Bettencourt-Meyers said, adding that she had died during Wednesday night at her home in Paris.
“I would like to reiterate, on behalf of our family, our entire commitment and loyalty to L‘Oreal and to renew my confidence in its President Jean-Paul Agon and his teams worldwide.”
Agon was appointed chairman and chief executive of L‘Oreal in 2011.
Nestle, which owns a little over 23 percent of L‘Oreal, had an agreement with the founding family stipulating that the two parties could not increase their stakes in the cosmetics group during Liliane Bettencourt’s lifetime and for at least six months after her death.
The Swiss company has been a major investor since 1974, when Bettencourt entrusted nearly half of her own stake in the firm to Nestle in exchange for a three percent holding in the Swiss company.
She took the move out of fear that L‘Oreal might be nationalized if the Socialists came to power in France.