The Life And Times Of The World’s Richest Women

Susanne Klatten, an heiress to the BMW fortune, may be the 68th richest person in the world, but her life hasn’t been so peachy lately. The German mama of three had a two-month affair with a creep named Helg Sgarbi, who secretly videotaped many of their encounters. Then he and several buddies blackmailed her, demanding $1.13 million and a BMW X5 each or else they would release the tapes. Rather than give these jerks the money, Klatten decided to take her case to the police and risk it going public. A few days ago, the police set up a sting operation, convincing the conspirators that Klatten was handing over the money and cars. Then they arrested the skanky dudes. [Bloomberg]

Interestingly, there aren’t so many billionairesses in the world. And many of them have equally fascinating stories that read more like soap operas than real life. Read on to learn more of the intriguing tid-bits about the world’s richest ladies.

  • Liliane Bettencourt is a classic case of being used for money. The 86-year-old L’Oreal heiress got very close to a younger gay man, Francois-Marie Banier. The 61-year-old fashion figure was her best friend and in her old age she became very dependent on him. As her mind began to fade, Banier took Bettencourt for everything he could. In 2004, she gave him $7.6 million and, a year later, $71 million. After she died, $30 million in paintings were willed to Banier. Her daughter questioned the relationship and, one by one, accounts from chauffeurs and maids began to unfold about how Banier would not go anywhere with her unless she gave him whatever he wanted. Even worse—part of Bettencourt’s fortune was entrusted to Bernard Madoff.
  • Christy Walton, an American Wal-Mart heiress who’s currently the richest woman in the world, and Savitri Jindal, an Indian steel heiress, both came to be super billionairesses in 2005 due to similarly unfortunate events. Christy become a widow when her husband’s plane crashed and Savirtri’s husband died in a helicopter accident. I’m sure both will tell you that money doesn’t buy happiness.
  • Shari Arison, the wealthiest woman in the Middle East, didn’t let her billions buy her out of doing time in the Israeli Defense Force. She was born in the U.S. and spent only part of her life in Israel. But at age 17, after having lived in the U.S. for five years, she decided to return to Israel to enlist in the IDF. That’s pretty impressive devotion. [Wikipedia]
  • Austrian widow Heidi Horten was without a doubt a gold digger. When she was 19, she met Helmut Horten, the founder of a German department store who was 30 years her senior, at a hotel bar. The two wed seven years later. In 1987, he passed away and left her with a $1 billion fortune. Now the 68-year-old billionairess divides her leisurely time between homes in Vienna, Switzerland, and the Bahamas. [Forbes]