L'Oreal billionaire heiress Liliane Bettencourt dies at 94

Liliane Bettencourt, the heiress to cosmetics giant L'Oreal, has died aged 94.

Cosmetics company L'Oreal chief executive Jean-Paul Agon, Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L'Oreal fortune and her daughter Francoise . Reuters

Liliane Bettencourt, the heiress to cosmetics giant L'Oreal, has died aged 94.

The death of Bettencourt, listed by Forbes as the world's richest woman, was announced in a statement from Jean-Paul Agon, chief executive officer at L'Oreal Group.

Bettencourt, the only child of L'Oreal SA founder Eugene Schueller, owned about one-third of the company's shares. She died Wednesday at her home in Paris.

Her daughter Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, who sits on L'Oreal's board along with her own son, said in a statement the family remained committed to the company and its management team.

Her death will fuel speculation about Nestle SA's 23 percent stake in L'Oreal, the second-largest holding after the Bettencourt family.

The Swiss food company and the Bettencourt family have a shareholder agreement that limits either side from raising their respective stakes until six months after the death of Liliane Bettencourt, according to the company's 2016 registration document. This restriction will now lift in March 2018.

"In this painful moment for us, I would like to reiterate, on behalf of our family, our entire commitment and loyalty to L'Oréal and to renew my confidence in its President Jean-Paul Agon and his teams worldwide," Bettencourt-Meyers said.

Bettencourt's husband, French conservative politician Andre Bettencourt died in 2007 after which the heiress became embroiled in a public feud with her estranged daughter in 2007.

Bettencourt-Meyers filed a lawsuit over concerns that her mother was being exploited by members of her entourage amid declining health.

Liliane Bettencourt's fortune now passes onto Bettencourt Meyers, 64, who heads the family's investment company.

One of her two grandchildren, Jean-Victor Meyers, succeeded her on L'Oreal's board as vice chairman, and was named to guard her personal affairs.

Her father, Eugène Schueller, founded a hair dye company in 1909, which then turned into the L'Oreal group.

In 2011 Agon was appointed chairman and chief executive of L'Oreal, owner of the Lancome and Maybelline beauty and make-up brands and of Garnier shampoos.

"We all had a great admiration for Liliane Bettencourt who always looked after L'Oréal, the company and its employees, and was very attached to its success and development," Jean-Paul Agon, Chairman and CEO of L'Oréal Group.

(With inputs from Reuters)