For years, Liliane Bettencourt was the richest woman on the planet. As the daughter of Eugene Schueller, the founder of L'Oreal, Bettencourt inherited a massive fortune when her father passed away in 1957. With a combination of her own business sense and the groundwork that had already been put in by her father, L'Oreal quickly became one of the world's largest cosmetics and beauty companies. With an estimated net worth of $44,000,000,000, Liliane Bettencourt could do just about whatever she wanted with her money. On 21 September 2017, Liliane Bettencourt passed away and everyone is unsure who will inherit her massive fortune. It's believed that her daughter, Louise Doncieux, will take over her Liliane Bettencourt's shares in L'Oreal, but that can't be said for certain.
For now, since Liliane Bettencourt's fortune is currently unaccounted for, we're all left wondering: who is the new richest woman on the planet? It seems that many of the world's richest women inherited their fortunes from their fathers or grandfathers. Though that's the case for some, there are a number of women on this list who built their own fortune or used the millions of dollars they inherited and turned it into billions.
We've compiled a list of the richest women alive for you to scroll through. Whether you hate how they were born rich, admire their business skills, or are straight-up jealous with the life that these women live, one thing is for certain: these women are way too rich. The lowest earning billionaire on this list will have more money than every reader of this article will ever have, combined. It's insane.
15 Margaretta Taylor — Cox Enterprises — $8,500,000,000
Margaretta Taylor entered the world as one of the luckiest women on the planet. The reason for this is because she was the daughter of Anne Cox Chambers, who owned 49.9% of Cox Enterprises, a company started by her father, James M. Cox. Though the company isn't recognizable on a global scale, Cox Enterprises is a massive media conglomerate based in Atlanta, Georgia. Cox Enterprises focuses on broadcast media, telecommunications, journalism, and automotive services.
In 2015, Margaretta Taylor's mother, Anne Cox Chambers, divided her 49.9% share in Cox Enterprises among her three children. Her children, Margaretta Taylor, Katharine Rayner, and James Cox Chambers, were given equal shares worth about $8.5 billion. Despite not having any involvement in the company, Margaretta was given nearly 17% of the company. While she tries to stay out of the spotlight, her son Alex is Cox Enterprises Chief Operating Officer and director. Instead of hoarding her inherited fortune, Margaretta Taylor regularly donates to the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Atlanta Humane Society.
14 Katharine Rayner — Cox Enterprises — $8,500,000,000
Katharine Rayner acquired her $8.5 billion fortune in the same way that her sister Margaretta Taylor did: she inherited it. Cut from the same cloth, Katharine Rayner and Margaretta Taylor are among the luckiest people ever born because they were born into one of the wealthiest families in the world. The Cox family owns Cox Enterprises, an automotive and media conglomerate. The company is known for controlling publications, like The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and owning brands such as Autotrader.com. Katherine and Margaretta never have to work a day in their lives or worry about not being able to survive. Even their great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren won't have to worry about going poor.
Now 74 years of age, Katharine Rayner lives her life donating to charities. She currently sits on the board of the Morgan Library, the New York Public Library, and the Animal Rescue Fund. What a life Katharine Rayner must live!
13 Zhou Qunfei — Lens Technology — $10,400,000,000
Zhou Qunfei is the first woman on this list to have amassed her own fortune. The Chinese entrepreneur founded the touchscreen maker Lens Technology. The company was founded 11 years ago and has since dominated the market. Responsible for producing and selling touch panel cover glass, touch sensor modules, and touch panel covers, Lens Technology is worth an estimated $11.4 billion and employs more than 82,000 people around the world.
Shortly after quitting her job as a factory worker, Zhou Qunfei started her own company with about $3,000 to her name, Zhou started her own company in 1993. Her company was responsible for watch repair, and she involved herself in all parts of the company. In 2003, Zhou caught her big break when Motorola asked her company to develop glass screens for their Razr V3 in a time when most phones were using plastic screens. Zhou took the contract and started the touchscreen maker Lens Technology.
12 Massimiliana Landini Aleotti — The Menarini Group — $11,300,000,000
Massimiliana Landini Aleotti is an Italian billionaire who, along with her 3 children, operates one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The company, The Menarini Group, was founded in 1886. Since its creation, the company has become dedicated to searching for pharmacological solutions in areas such as cardiovascular diseases, oncology, pain/inflammation, asthma, and anti-infectives. The company has more than 13,000 employees around the world.
Massimiliana Landini Aleotti and her children inherited the Menarini Group from her husband, Alberto Aleotti, who died in 2014 at the age of 91. The company wouldn't be worth as much as it is today without the hard work of Alberto, who began working for the company in the 1960s. Thinking he could do a better job of running the company, Alberto bought Menarini from the owners in the early 1990s.
Since inheriting the fortune, the Aleotti family has been accused several times by the Italian government of tax evasion. Though never officially found guilty, the investigation is ongoing to this day. In September 2016, Alberto's children, Lucia and Alberto Giovanni, were sentenced to 10 and 7 years in prison, respectively, on charges of corruption and money laundering.
11 Blair Parry-Okeden — Cox Enterprises — $12,800,000,000
Blair Parry-Okeden is one of Australia's richest people by net worth, despite originally immigrating from Hawaii in the 1970s. Though she lives on the other side of the world, Parry-Okeden is cousins with billionaires Katharine Rayner and Margaretta Taylor. Parry-Okeden inherited her $12 billion fortune after the death of her mother in 2007, who left Parry-Okeden with 25% of Cox Enterprises. Despite owning such a significant portion of the company, Parry-Okeden has no role at the company.
For most of her life, Parry-Okeden lived out of the spotlight. However, her wealth was made public in 2009 after Forbes Asia assessed her net worth at around $7 billion.
10 Abigail Johnson — Fidelity Investments — $15,100,000,000
Abigail Johnson is the president and chief executive officer of Fidelity Investments, a company founded by her grandfather. With her family owning around 49% of the company, Johnson was named chairman, on top of already being CEO and president of the company, giving her full control of the company. Fidelity has 45,000 employees worldwide and earns tens of billions in revenue every single year.
Despite excelling as an employee of Fidelity Investments, Johnson is the first and only woman to serve on the board of the Financial Services Forum. This organization is made up of the CEOs of the 18 largest financial institutions in the United States and strives to create policies that encourage savings and investment and promote a truly global marketplace.
9 Gina Rinehart — Hancock Prospecting — $15,200,000,000
Thanks to the success of a company her father started, Gina Rinehart is one of the richest women in the world. As a young woman, Rinehart took a gamble on her life when she decided to drop out of university and work for her father at Hancock Prospecting. In 1992, Rinehart inherited 76.6% of the company after her father passed away, and her net worth was an estimated $75 million. The company was propelled to new heights after Rinehart expanded the company over the following decade and lucked out during the iron ore boom in the early 2000s.
From 2011 to 2015, Rinehart was Australia's richest person with a net worth of around $18 billion. Though she tried to use her wealth to invest in other companies, Rinehart's fortune took a bit of a hit when the Australian mining sector slowed down. Nonetheless, if you lose a chunk of your fortune and are still left with over $15 billion, you're doing pretty well.
8 Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken — Heineken International — $15,600,000
Beer fans owe a lot to the Heineken family. Not only did the family make a delicious beer, but they're responsible for creating the world's second-largest brewing company, Heineken International. Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken owns 25% of Heineken International and serves as an executive director of the company.
Like most billionaires on this list, there isn't a whole lot known about Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken other than that she comes from money and married into it as well. Her husband is Michael de Carvalho, a Harvard graduate, former actor, former Olympic luger, and current financier involved in NM Rothschild and Citi businesses.
To add to her already massive fortune, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken inherited an additional $4.8 billion when her father, Freddy Heineken, passed away in 2002.
7 Iris Fontbona — Antofagasta PLC — $16,100,000,000
Iris Fontbona is one of the richest people living in Chile. When she was just 17 years old, Fontbona met Andronico Luksic Abaroa, who was 20 years older than her. When she turned 18, the two of them got married. Before marrying Fontbona, Luksic had five children with his first wife, who passed away. With Fontbona, Luksic had another three children. Fontbona acquired her fortune after her husband passed away in 2005. Despite being given a scandalous amount of money, the majority of her husband's fortune went to their three sons, Guillermo, Jean Paul, and Andronico.
Andronico Luksic created his own fortune by founding the Luksic Group, which has investments in sectors such as mining, financial, industrial, and beverage. Despite becoming incredibly wealthy, Luksic dedicated the last years of his life to donating money to charitable causes and spending time with his family. It seems that Fontbona is living her life the same way, as she's regularly breaking records for how much money she's donated during the Chilean Telethon, which helps raise money for children with physical disabilities. In 2015, she donated $4.3 million in front of a live television audience. Despite her massive public donations, Fontbona refuses to do interviews with reporters.
6 Yang Huiyan — Country Garden Holdings — $16,400,000,000
As someone who owns 55% of Country Garden Holdings, Yang Huiyan is often reported to be the richest woman in Asia while, at the same time, being one of the youngest billionaires in the world. The company was started by Yang Huiyan's father, Yang Guoqiang, and is one of the top real-estate companies in Asia. To date, the company employs over 70,000 people and has sold properties to over 1,500,000 homeowners. While she serves as vice chairman on the board's governance committee and was a crucial player in increasing the company's stock value, Yang Huiyan acquired her fortune through a clever move by her father.
When a company has an IPO (or initial public offering) it means that shares in the company can be bought and sold by anyone on a stock exchange. This process is essential for a private company to become public and make the owners of the company very rich, depending on how well their stocks sell. Before Country Garden Holdings had its IPO in 2007, Yang Guoqiang, transferred 70% of Country Garden's share to his daughter, Yang Huiyan. With one transfer, he made his daughter a billionaire... before she even turned 30!
5 Laurene Powell Jobs — $20,200,000,000 — Apple Inc
As you could've guessed from her last name, Laurene Powell Jobs is the widow of Steve Jobs, in addition to being the co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc. While she's had a respectable career of her own, Laurene Powell's wealth stems from what she gained when Steve Jobs passed away in 2011. After the death of her husband, Steve, Laurene inherited the Steven P. Jobs Trust, which had a 7.3% stake in The Walt Disney Company and around 38.5 million shares in Apple Inc.
Like many billionaires, Powell Jobs has spent a large portion of her life as a philanthropist. In 1997, Powell co-founded College Track, a nonprofit organization to help improve high school graduation rates and overall college enrollment.
4 Susanne Klatten — Altana, BMW — $22,800,000,000
To understand Susanne Klatten's wealth, you have to understand how her family acquired it. We all know that BMW is a thriving luxury car company, but this wasn't always the case. Once on the verge of bankruptcy, Susanne Klatten's father, Herbert Quandt, doubled down on his BMW shares and risked his own wealth to completely revitalize the company. In doing so, Herbert Quandt kept the luxury-car company afloat and earned himself a pretty penny in the process.
So, Susanne Klatten was born into money but tried to find her own footing in the world of business. In an interview, Klatten revealed that it was hard for her to make a name for herself away from her parents and often worked under the name "Susanne Kant" to hide how wealthy she was. Her family name was an issue when she was a teenager. There was an attempt to kidnap her in 1978. There was a brief controversy over Klatten's family history when it came to light that her family was linked directly to the crimes that the Nazis committed during World War II.
After working for advertising agencies and a number of banks, Klatten inherited her father's shares in BMW and Altana. While she inherited a fortune, it was Klatten's own business sense that turned Altana into a billion-dollar company.
3 Jacqueline Mars — Mars, Inc — $26,000,000,000
Jacqueline Mars is reaping the benefits given to her by her grandfather, Franklin Clarence Mars, who founded the company Mars Incorporated. His son, Forrest Edward Mars, is responsible for creating M&M's and the Mars Bar. A number of other products made by Mars Incorporated include Snickers, Twix, 3 Musketeers, Galaxy, Maltesers, Juicy Fruit, Starburst, Excel, and 5 Gum. Looking through their products, particularly their gum, will make you think that Mars Incorporated has a monopoly on the chewing gum market.
Jacqueline Mars and her two brothers inherited $22 billion each.
As rich as she may be, Jacqueline Mars could not outrun the law. In 2013, Mars was involved in a car crash near her home and was charged with reckless driving. One person died at the scene, and a pregnant woman involved in the accident miscarried due to the collision. Mars told a witness that she had fallen asleep at the wheel and plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving. I guess rich people get more lenient sentences after all.
2 Maria Franca Fissolo — Ferrero SpA — $29,800,000,000
Like so many people in the world, Maria Franca Fissolo married the love of her life — he just happened to become one of the wealthiest men in the world. Maria Franca Fissolo married Michele Ferrero in 1962. Ferraro's father, Pietro, started Ferrero SpA originally used to supply his wife's pastry shop. When he passed away, the business was given to his son, Michelle. Ferrero SpA is responsible for the brands Mon Cheri, Kinder Chocolate, Ferrero Rocher, Tic Tacs, and Kinder Eggs and can be credited with creating Nutella.
Maria Franca Fissolo had two sons with her husband, Michele Ferrero. For a period of time, both of Maria's sons ran Ferrero SpA. Her son, Giovanni, took over as co-CEO in 1987, continues to lead the company, and has repeatedly told media outlets that he plans to keep the company in the hands of his family. Her other son, Pietro, ran Ferrero SpA with his brother Giovanni for two decades before dying during a bike ride in South Africa.
In 2015, Michele Ferrero passed away, leaving his massive fortune to his wife, Maria Franca Fissolo.
1 Alice Walton — Wal-Mart — $37,900,000,000
The size of the Walton family fortune is insane. While we all know and understand how successful Wal-Mart is, the fact that Alice Walton and her family are worth a combined $145 billion is astonishing. Majority of the fortune amassed by Wal-Mart has stayed with the relatives of the founder, Sam Walton. Today, Alice Walton is considered the richest woman in the world, and she's no stranger to throwing her money around.
With an estimated $11 billion in Walmart shares, Alice Walton thinks she can do just about whatever she wants. She's been arrested multiple times for driving while intoxicated. Additionally, in 1989, she was responsible for the death of 50-year-old Oleta Hardin, but no charges were officially filed despite the fact that Walton was speeding when she hit Oleta Hardin. In 2011, Walton was arrested again for driving while intoxicated. Even though Walton's attorney released a letter acknowledging she had driven while intoxicated, the charges were dropped by Texas prosecutors in 2013.
If you have enough money, you can get away with pretty much anything.
Sources: Wikipedia.org, bbc.co.uk, forbes.com