The world's richest women

1. Liliane Bettencourt

Liliane Bettencourt is the world's richest woman. With a wealth of $22.9 billion, she is the 17th richest person on earth, according to Forbes.

She is also the second richest person in France, after Bernard Arnault who has an estimated wealth of $26.0 billion.

Daughter of Eugene Schueller, the founder of L'Oreal, one of the world's leading cosmetics companies, Bettencourt has a controlling stake of 27 per cent in L'Oreal since four decades. In 1957, Bettencourt inherited the L'Oreal fortune from her father. He founded the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, which awards the Liliane Bettencourt Prize for Life Sciences to a European researcher under the age of 45.

Bettencourt prefers to be away from public attention and devotes her time for the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation. Her mission is to help and support projects in the medical and humanitarian areas. About 60 per cent of the Foundation's budget helps in medical research.

2. Christy Ruth Walton

Christy Ruth Walton, the wife of late John T Walton is the world's second richest woman. With a wealth of $19.2 billion, she is also the world's 26 richest person according to Forbes. John Thomas Walton was son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. After John's untimely demise in a plane crash in 2005, she inherited his fortune of $15.7 billion.

Wal-Mart is today the world's largest retailer, with 6,500 stores in 15 countries
and 1.8 million employees.

3. Alice Walton

Alice Louise Walton, the Wal-Mart heiress is the world's third richest woman. Daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and Helen Walton, she is the world's 29th richest person.

She has an estimated net worth of about $19 billion. Alice Walton graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio. Walton was the 20th largest individual contributor to 527 committees in the US presidential election in 2004.

She has also been in the news for the wrong reasons. In 1989, Alice Walton killed a 50-year-old lady in car accident in Arkansas. Although it was her speeding that led to the incident, no charges were filed in connection. In 1996, Walton was fined $925 for drunken driving.

An art lover, Alice Walton once paid $35 million for a painting, and then convinced Arkansas to grant her a $3 million tax exemption on the purchase.

4. Jacqueline Mars

Jacqueline Badger Mars, daughter of Forrest Edward Mars, Sr., and granddaughter of Frank C. Mars, founder of the American candy company Mars Incorporated is the 4th richest woman in the world.

The 68-year old Jacqueline Mars with a wealth of $14 billion is the 46th richest person in the world.

The family is very protective of their privacy. They refuse to be interviewed, or photographed in public.

The Mars family is one of the richest in the US. The company was founded in Washington, in 1911, when Frank Clarence Mars and his wife Ethel started making and selling candy.

Today, Mars Incorporated offers confectionery, pet food and other food products. Mars is most famous for chocolates like Mars Bar, Milky Way, M&M's, Twix, Skittles and Snickers. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, USA, the company is entirely owned by the Mars family. It is one of the largest privately owned US companies.

5. Susanne Klatten

Susanne Klatten is the world's 5th richest woman in the world. With a wealth of $13.2 billion, she is also the 55th richest person in the Forbes richest list.

The 45-year old Klatten inherited a stake in auto giant BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG ) from her father Herbert Quandt. BMW is one of the world's leading performance-luxury manufacturers of cars and motorcycles.

She also inherited 50 per cent stake in pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturer Altana. In September 2006, Altana sold its pharmaceutical division to Scandinavian firm Nycomed for $6 billion. Susanne bagged a good deal as well.

She was instrumental in transforming Altana into a world-class pharmaceutical corporation.

BMW was officially founded as a public company in 1922. Karl Rapp and Gustav Otto, are known as BMW's founders.

6. Anne Cox Chambers

Billionaire Anne Cox Chambers is the world's 6th richest woman. With a wealth of $12.8 billion inherited from Cox Enterprises, she is also the 62nd richest person on earth.

The 88-year-old Anne is the daughter of James M. Cox, a newspaper publisher. She owns and controls her father's business interests, through Cox Enterprises.

A supporter of the Democratic Party, she was selected by the then US President Jimmy Carter as the US Ambassador to Belgium from 1977 to 1981. She is also a supporter of Barack Obama's presidential campaign in Georgia.

Anne Cox serves as a director of Cox Enterprises, one of the largest diversified media companies in the United States. Her company owns the cable television businesses, Cox Communications, which provides Internet and telephony services.

The company also owns and publishes the newspapers and operates broadcast television and radio stations. It also has an automobile auction firm, Manheim. She supports cultural and educational charities, related to arts and international affairs and has received many awards for her philanthropy.

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