World’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress bolsters family’s investment firm

Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the world’s richest woman, is bolstering her family’s investment company with a hire from McKinsey & Co. amid a surge in the value of L’Oreal SA, the cosmetics giant founded by her grandfather.

A sign for L'Oreal SA at the company's global headquarters in Paris, France.(Bloomberg)
A sign for L’Oreal SA at the company’s global headquarters in Paris, France.(Bloomberg)

The heiress’s Tethys Invest SAS has named Cyrielle Villepelet as managing director to work alongside Chief Executive Officer Alexandre Benais, according to a statement Thursday. Villepelet was most recently a partner in the Paris office of consultant McKinsey, working in luxury, fashion and the consumer goods industries.

Tethys invests in areas that don’t compete with L’Oreal. Last year it bought into decade-old retailer Sezane alongside private equity firm General Atlantic, and in 2017 invested in French private hospital operator Elsan. The firm is partly funded by L’Oreal dividends.

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Bettencourt Meyers, 69, is the biggest single shareholder in L’Oreal with a nearly 35% stake. She’s one of a trio of French luxury titans whose companies have benefited from demand for high-end makeup, clothes and jewelery. The ultra-rich group also includes Bernard Arnault, the world’s richest person and founder of fashion empire LVMH, and rival Francois Pinault, who started Kering SA, owner of brands like Gucci and Balenciaga.

Arnault is worth $188.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, while Bettencourt Meyers is No. 11 in the ranking with an estimated $81.5 billion and Pinault comes in at No. 30 with $41.3 billion.

With a reclusive reputation, Bettencourt Meyers is on the board of L’Oreal along with her two sons, Jean-Victor Meyers and Nicolas Meyers. She has written two books — a five-volume study of the Bible and a genealogy of the Greek gods — and is known for playing piano for hours every day. She came into her fortune following the death in 2017 of her mother, Liliane Bettencourt.

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