Liliane Bettencourt, the world’s richest woman, died in Paris Thursday. She was 94. Bettencourt, who was heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune and a stakeholder in Nestle as well, had a net worth of about $40 billion.
As Vanity Fair has noted, Bettencourt was also known for “the Bettencourt affair,” which Vanity Fair contributor Tom Sancton investigated in his book of the same name.
The story unfolded over two decades: Young artist François-Marie Banier became close to the elderly Bettencourt; she showered him with hundreds of millions of dollars and other gifts—including real estate.
“If this story were presented as a screenplay, no producer would buy it. It’s just too incredible,” Sancton wrote in the November 2010 issue of Vanity Fair.
In May 2015, Banier was sentenced to three years in prison for taking advantage of an aging Bettencourt, to, as V.F. wrote, “extort up to a billion dollars’ worth of artwork, insurance policies, real estate, and cash over nearly two decades.”
L’Oréal chairman and C.E.O. Jean-Paul Agon spoke fondly of Bettencourt’s legacy in a statement, per the BBC.
“We all had a deep admiration for Liliane Bettencourt who has always watched over L’Oreal, the company and its employees, and who was very attached to its success and development.
She personally contributed a lot to its success for very many years. A great woman of beauty has left us, and we will never forget her.”