Liliane Bettencourt, the world's richest woman, dies

Liliane Bettencourt in 2012

Billionaire Liliane Bettencourt was the heir to the L'Oreal cosmetics empire, though she left the company board in 2012, and passed away Wednesday night in her home, her daughter Françoise Bettencourt Meyers said in a statement to the U.K.'s The Guardian. "My mother left peacefully".

At the time of her death at age 94, Bettencourt was worth about $39.5 billion, according to Forbes.

There were even accusations financial manager Patrice de Maistre convinced her to make cash donations to former president Nicolas Sarkozy during his 2007 presidential campaign.

The product of a strict Catholic upbringing, she started helping out with the company at age 15, sticking labels on bottles of shampoo and mixing cosmetics.

In October 2011, a court ruled Ms Bettencourt was suffering from a form of dementia, and awarded the daughter control over her mother's wealth and income - then estimated at $26 billion and including about 33 per cent of L'Oreal.

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Liliane Bettencourt inherited the L'Oreal fortune upon the death of her father in 1957. Her father, Eugène Schueller, founded a company in 1909 which ultimately turned into the L'Oreal group. Banier, who denied the allegations, was convicted of exploiting Bettencourt and sentenced to three years in jail, a sentence that was later reduced by six months, the New York Times reports.

Sarkozy himself was cleared in 2013 of preliminary charges. He died in 2007. Liliane Bettencourt was the heiress to the L'Oréal fortune.

L'Oreal is one of the world's biggest cosmetics group with almost 90,000 employees in 140 countries and sales of 25.84 billion euros in 2016.

Bettencourt long enjoyed the company of artists, and her Bettencourt-Schueller foundation funded a range of films and art projects over the years, in addition to medical research and literacy projects. The company owns brands like Lancome, Garnier and La Roche-Posay.

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