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L'Oreal heiress dies at 94

Liliane Bettencourt died peacefully at her Paris home, daughter Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers says in a statement

L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, the world's richest woman, has died at the age of 94.

She died peacefully at her home in Paris in the early hours of Thursday, a month before her 95th birthday, daughter Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers said in a statement.

Last year, Forbes magazine estimated her personal wealth at €33billion, making her the 14th richest person in the world, and the first woman on its rich list.

L'Oreal chairman Jean-Paul Agon added: "We all had a deep admiration for Liliane Bettencourt who has always watched over L'Oréal, the company and its employees, and who was very attached to its success and development."

Born in Paris in 1922, Mrs Bettencourt was the only child of Louise Madelaine Berthe and Eugene Schueller, who founded L’Oreal. Her mother died when she was five years old. She joined the family business at 15, and inherited the company when her father died in 1957.

She was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer's in 2006, and left the board of the company in 2012 after being declared unfit to look after her own affairs, but remained in the news due to allegations of exploitation.

It had been claimed in 2008 that a photographer, François-Marie Banier, was gifted items worth hundreds of millions of dollars - including paintings by Picasso and a 670-acre island in the Seychelles. It was also alleged that her financial manager, Patrice de Maistre, had illegally used her money to part-fund former President Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election bid.

Mr Sarkozy refuted the allegations and French prosecutors dropped all charges relating to him in 2013. In May 2015 eight people, including Mr Banier and Mr de Maistre, were convicted for their part in the case. Mr Banier was handed a four-year suspended sentence, while Mr de Maistre was sentenced to 30 months in prison, 12 of which were suspended, and fined €250,000.

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