Billionaires: L'Oreal heir names new head of family office

In our fortnightly round-up of the world’s super wealthy, Elon Musk says Twitter may break even soon and Mukesh Ambani enters the genome testing market

Francoise Bettencourt Meyers is the world's richest woman with a net worth of $79.3 billion. AFP
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Francoise Bettencourt Meyers

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

Ms Bettencourt Meyers' Tethys Invest company named Cyrielle Villepelet as managing director to work alongside chief executive Alexandre Benais.

Ms Villepelet was most recently a partner in the Paris office of consultancy McKinsey, working in the luxury, fashion and consumer goods industries.

Tethys invests in areas that do not compete with L’Oreal. Last year, it bought into decade-old retailer Sezane alongside private equity company General Atlantic and, in 2017, it invested in French private hospital operator Elsan.

The company is partly funded by L’Oreal dividends.

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Ms Bettencourt Meyers, 69, is the biggest single shareholder in L’Oreal with a stake of about 35 per cent.

She is one of a clutch of French luxury titans whose companies have benefitted from growing demand for high-end make-up, clothes and jewellery.

The ultra-wealthy group also includes Bernard Arnault, the world’s richest person and founder of fashion empire LVMH, and rival Francois Pinault, who started Kering, owner of brands such as Gucci and Balenciaga.

The Wertheimer brothers, who own Chanel, and the family behind leather goods maker Hermes International are also in the clique.

Mr Arnault is worth $188.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, while Ms Bettencourt Meyers is number 12 in the ranking with an estimated fortune of $79.3 billion.

Watch: Who is Bernard Arnault, the man who replaced Elon Musk as world’s richest?

Who is Bernard Arnault, the man who replaced Elon Musk as world’s richest?

Who is Bernard Arnault, the man who replaced Elon Musk as world’s richest?

Alain Wertheimer is the world's 25th-richest person and his brother, Gerard, is 26th. Both have a fortune of $48.4 billion, while Mr Pinault is ranked 30th with $40.9 billion.

As a leader in the global skincare market, L’Oreal could benefit from a higher-than-expected demand for beauty products should China rebound this year, UBS analysts wrote in a recent note.

The company's shares have more than doubled in the past five years, valuing it at $217 billion.

With a reclusive reputation, Ms 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 deities — and is known for playing piano for hours every day.

She came into her fortune following the death of her mother, Liliane Bettencourt, in 2017 at the age of 94.

Elon Musk

Twitter may break even on a cash flow basis in the second quarter and has a shot at even going positive, according to the social media platform's billionaire owner Elon Musk.

The company has been working on making its advertising more relevant, said Mr Musk, speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference last Tuesday.

Mr Musk, who bought Twitter last year for $44 billion, emphasised that its debt burden after the deal was quite high while the cost of servicing the debt is about $1.5 billion annually, almost equal to its current cash burn rate.

With all the attention Twitter receives, it is “startling” how little money it makes, he said.

Mr Musk, the world's second-richest person with a net worth of $174 billion, said the microblogging platform was profitable based on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) but emphasised the “D” was quite big and that they needed to focus on the “E” part.

Mr Musk has a long-standing relationship with Morgan Stanley.

The investment bank has led or co-led several of Tesla’s offerings, including a $2 billion offering in 2020, and oversaw the effort to line up debt financing for the Twitter deal.

However, Morgan Stanley, along with other banks, struggled to offload Twitter's debt to outside investors.

Mukesh Ambani

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s group is getting into genetic mapping, looking to make a healthcare trend led by disruptive US start-ups such as 23andMe cheaper and more widespread in India’s growing consumer market.

The conglomerate, which has interests spanning from energy to e-commerce, will unveil a comprehensive $145 genome sequencing test within weeks, said Ramesh Hariharan, chief executive of Strand Life Sciences, which developed the product.

Reliance Industries, led by Mr Ambani, Asia’s richest person, acquired the Bengaluru-based company in 2021 and now owns about 80 per cent of it.

The genome test, which is about 86 per cent cheaper than other offerings available locally, can reveal a person’s predisposition to cancers, cardiac and neurodegenerative ailments, as well as identify inherited genetic disorders, he said.

The project to bring cheaper personal gene-mapping to India’s 1.4 billion people — on track to be the world’s most populous nation — will potentially create a treasure trove of biological data that can aid drug development and disease prevention in the region.

It also dovetails with Mr Ambani’s ambitions to dive further into the world of data — he has often called it the “new oil” — as he pivots his $192 billion empire beyond refining into consumer and digital services.

The global genetic testing market was valued at $12.7 billion in 2019 and is expected to touch $21.3 billion by 2027, according to a report from Allied Market Research.

Klaus-Michael Kuehne

Klaus-Michael Kuehne, Germany’s richest person, stands to pocket $4.5 billion in dividends this year from his growing transport empire, a windfall that could fuel another round of investments to boost his fortune.

Kuehne + Nagel International, the world’s largest air and sea freight-forwarding business, last week announced a planned payout of 14 Swiss francs ($14.90) a share, a 40 per cent increase from the previous year.

That would give Mr Kuehne 896 million francs from his 53 per cent stake, if shareholders approve the proposal.

The dividend adds to the $3.5 billion Mr Kuehne stands to gain from his 30 per cent holding in container shipping company Hapag-Lloyd and a potential payout from his stake in Lufthansa, the German airline.

Mr Kuehne, 85, is worth $41.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him the 29th-richest person in the world.

The billionaire, who moved to Switzerland half a century ago, married at the age of 52 and has no children.

He created a non-profit Swiss foundation in 1976 that focuses on logistics and medicine, with strong ties to his investment vehicle Kuehne Holding.

Should he “fall over now”, his closest Swiss adviser and vice president of his foundation, Thomas Staehelin, would take over, Mr Kuehne said in a recent interview. A spokeswoman for the Kuehne Foundation declined to comment.

In naming his replacement, Mr Kuehne also noted that Mr Staehelin is 75 years old and other possibilities are emerging as the boards of the foundation and his holding company are “rejuvenated”.

Updated: March 13, 2023, 5:00 AM