- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 25, 2008

NEW YORK | Liliane Bettencourt, the world’s wealthiest woman, entrusted part of her $22.9 billion fortune with Bernard Madoff through the fund manager found dead in New York Tuesday, two people familiar with the matter said.

The 86-year-old daughter of L’Oreal SA founder Eugene Schueller was the first investor in a fund managed by Access International Advisors, the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because her investment isn’t public. The body of Access co-founder Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet, 65, was found in his Madison Avenue office Tuesday. Police said he probably killed himself.

Ms. Bettencourt, a Parisian, joins wealthy individuals from around the world, including Spanish billionaire Alicia Koplowitz, U.S. moviemaker Steven Spielberg and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, among the victims of what Mr. Madoff, 70, told investigators was a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

“More high-profile names who have been victimized by Mr. Madoff will start to become known now,” said Ron Geffner, who represents hedge funds at the New York-based law firm Sadis & Goldberg LLP. “There’s a strong sense of anguish, fear and distrust.”

Hedwige Sautereau, in charge of cultural patronage at the Foundation Bettencourt Schueller, the foundation Ms. Bettencourt started in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, wasn’t available to comment, according to an assistant. Ms. Bettencourt ranked 17th on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people in 2008, the highest-ranking woman.

Ms. Bettencourt, the only child of Mr. Schueller, holds a 30 percent stake in Paris-based L’Oreal, the world’s largest cosmetics maker, according to Bloomberg data. She inherited L’Oreal in 1957 when her father died and holds a seat on its board.

Ms. Bettencourt rarely speaks to the media. She gave her first interview in 20 years this month to the weekly Figaro Magazine.

Access, which oversaw $3 billion, raised money mainly from wealthy European investors.

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