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AKIPRESS.COM - L'Oreal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt, listed by Forbes as the richest woman in the world with a fortune of almost $50 billion, has died at the age of 94.
The one-time society beauty, whose wealth, complex family relations and scandal-tinged life often propelled her into society pages and headlines, died in Paris on Wednesday night (local time), ABC News reported.
"My mother left peacefully," her daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers said.
For most of her nine decades Ms Bettencourt was better known for who she was than for what she did, even though her first job, at the age of 15, was as an apprentice in a L'Oreal factory, mixing cosmetics and labelling bottles of shampoo.
She was the daughter of L'Oreal founder Eugene Schueller, to whom she was always close.
In 1950, at the age of 28, she married Andre Bettencourt — a government minister of the 1960s and '70s under former president Charles de Gaulle.
During those years, neither Mr Schueller nor Mr Bettencourt were able to shake accusations of pro-Nazi sympathies and anti-Semitism despite their close association with Francois Mitterrand, the former socialist president.
Mr Schueller funded a WWII pro-collaboration group and Mr Bettencourt wrote anti-Semitic tracts around the same time, although he later joined the French Resistance and said he regretted his earlier writings.
Ms Bettencourt inherited the L'Oreal empire when her father died in 1957 but running the company fell to Francois Dalle — another friend of Mr Mitterrand's, who built the business into the $126 billion company it is today.
Famed for its "Because you're worth it" advertising campaign, L'Oreal is France's fourth-largest listed firm.