Most people have heard of the world’s richest men but few people could name the richest woman in the world. Wealthy women quite often sit under the radar and very seldom make it into the news despite having enormous wealth.
Here we look at the ten richest women in the world. They include the widow of John Walton, whose father and uncle founded the retail giant Walmart, as well as the chief shareholder of the cosmetic company L’Oreal — who inherited the company from her late father. Scroll to the bottom to find out who is the richest woman in the world.
10 Johanna Quandt $12.8 billion
The Quandt family are one Germany’s richest families, and Johanna achieved a share of that wealth when she married industrialist Herbert Quandt — the man recognised as saving motor company BMW from bancruptcy. Born Johanna Bruhn in 1926 she joined Quandt’s office as a secretary in 1950 and then became his personal assistant.
In 1960 she became Quandt’s third wife and when he died 22 years later she became the major shareholder in BMW and sat on the board until she retired in 1997. The two children from their marriage, Stefan Quandt and Susanne Klatten (see number 6 below), both sit on the BMW board and are major shareholders in the company.
Johanna now lives quietly in the German town of Bad Homburg. Her estate funds the annual Herbert Quandt media prize of €50,000 for German journalists.
9 Laurene Powell Jobs $14 billion
Educationalist Laurene Powell Jobs is the widow of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. She is the founder of Emerson Collective, which is involved with education and immigration reform and environmental conservation. She also co-founded and is president of College Track, which helps disadvantaged children get into college.
She married Jobs on March 18, 1991, at a ceremony presided over by a Zen Buddhist Monk at the Ahwanee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. They were happily married for twenty years before he died of pancreatic cancer on October 5, 2011, at the age of 56.
Powell inherited the Steve P.Jobs Trust which has an $8.7 billion stake in the Walt Disney Company and 5.5 million shares in Apple. In 2013 it was widely reported in the press that Powell was dating the former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty.
8 Anne Cox Chambers $15.4 billion
At 94 years old, Anne is the oldest woman on the list. She is the primary owner of media company Cox Enterprises which was founded by her father James M. Cox, the US democratic presidential candidate in 1920.
Cox Enterprises is a privately owned media empire that includes newspapers, television, radio and cable TV. Married twice with three children, Anne’s son is actor, dancer and choreographer James Cox Chambers. She supports a wide range of cultural and educational charities especially ones related to the arts and internal affairs.
7 Abigail Johnson $17.3 billion
Abigail Johnson is the President of Fidelity Financial Investments, the Boston finance company founded by her grandfather. She is one of the most private and hard-working of all those on the wealthiest women list. Although she is happily married to health care entrepreneur Christopher McKown with two teenage daughters, she prefers to keep her family name.
The McKowns live on a wooded estate in a Boston suburb in a seven-bedroom house once owned by her grandfather. Abigail has been involved with the family company for 25 years and is being groomed to step into her father’s CEO role when Edward ‘Ned’ Johnson III finally steps down.
6 Susanne Klatten $17.4 billion
German heiress Susanne Klatten inherited the majority share in the pharmaceutical and chemical company Atlanta from her late father Herbert Quandt. When Atlanta sold its pharmaceutical side to Nycomed for €4.5 million to concentrate on the chemical business, Klatten bought all the shares she didn’t own.
She was the subject of a bizarre blackmail plot in 2007 which resulted in the arrest of two men. She fell for a smooth-talking businessman in an Austrian spa hotel, and she gave him £6.2 million “out of love for him”. He then proceeded to try and blackmail her, but was later sentenced to six years in jail. Despite Susanne’s ordeal, she and her husband Jan, who she married in 1990, are still together and live in Munich.
5 Gina Rinehart $17.7 billion
Mining heiress Georgina Rinehart, 60, was born Georgina Hancock in Perth, Australia in 1954. She is a director of several companies and part-owns a number of coal mines. One of them, the Alpha Mine in Queensland, has just been the subject of a land court case where a Queensland court ruled mining should stop completely or should only be allowed to operate under severe restrictions to protect the local residents’ water supply.
Gina has been married twice. She met her first husband when she was nineteen, but the marriage did not last. She later married Frank Rinehart, a German American 28 years her senior, but he sadly died seven years after the wedding. She has fallen out with her son John and he has changed his since name to Hancock after his grandfather.
4 Jacqueline Badger Mars $20 billion
Twice-divorced Jacqueline is the heiress to confectionary company Mars Incorporated, and is the daughter of the late Forrest Mars Sr who founded the company with her grandfather Frank C.Mars. Her father died in 1999 and the Mars family are the major shareholders in the world-famous firm.
In October 2013 the 74-year-old was involved in a serious car accident near her Virginia home. Her Porsche crossed the central reservation and crashed into a mini van killing an 86-year-old grandmother in the back seat and the unborn baby of the pregnant driver.
Mars pleaded guilty to reckless driving and only escaped a jail sentence when the family of the deceased said they forgave her. Her lisence was suspended for six months and she was fined $2,500.
3 Alice Walton $34.3 billion
Alice is the daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton and sister-in-law to Christy (below). In 2012 Time magazine named her as one of the most influential people in the world. Alice pioneered the Walton Family foundation’s development of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. She likes to use her fortune to buy expensive works of art, and owns one of the world’s top ten art collections.
Alongside a number of wealthy American citizens Alice has recently founded a political action group committee that will raise funds to support Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign should she decide to stand in 2016.
2 Liliane Bettencourt $34.5 billion
Paris-born Liliane Bettencourt inherited the world famous L’Oreal cosmetic company from her father Eugene Schueller whom she was incredibly close to, as her mother died when she was five years old. Liliane earned her inheritance as she joined the company as an apprentice when she was 15 and started out mixing cosmetics and labeling shampoo bottles. She worked her way up to become Company Vice President.
Liliane married French politician Andre Bettencourt and they had a daughter Francoise. Together they founded La Fondation Bettencourt Schueller which supports medical, cultural and humanitarian projects. Liliane hit the headlines in 2010 over alleged donations to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s election campaign funds. He was accused with taking advantage of the frail 90-year-old heiress, and the row played a part in the downfall of his career.
1 Christy Walton $36.7 billion
The majority of Christy Walton’s fortune was inherited from her former green-beret husband John, who was a medic in the Vietnam war. John’s father Sam and his brother James founded retail giant Walmart in 1962. Tragically, John Walton died in an air crash in 2005.
In 2010, Christy was dubbed “America’s meanest billionaire” when she refused to join Bill Gates and 39 other wealthy Americans to give at least half their fortune to charity during their lifetime. Christy likes to find other ways to distribute her money and actively supports her family’s charity the Walton Family charitable Support Foundation, which gives funds to universities, colleges and education in Arkansas.
On a side note, you might have noticed we are missing a few photos. Many of these individuals are pretty private and there are few photos in the public domain or on their corporate sites.
Article last updated January 03 2015.
Would you like to have as much money as the women on this list? What would you do if you had their wealth? Give it to charity? Spend it on superyachts? Let us know in the comments section below.