Each year, the list of the world's ultra-rich is often composed of the same names. However, what often changes is the rank of each member, since many of them have wealth directly linked to the different sectors of the stock market. Let's examine some of the world's wealthiest women, their net worth and the companies that helped them obtain it. (The road to the executive suite is paved with education, experience and knowledge for men and women alike. Find out more in Female CEOs: What It Takes To Climb The Corporate Ladder.)
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- Christy Walton
Mrs. Walton inherited her wealth from the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). She became the world's richest woman after the tragic death of her husband, John T. Walton, in 2005. John, the son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, also served as the chairman of a venture capital firm, True North Partners. In the summer of 1972, shares of Wal-Mart were valued around 5 cents each. Today, they sit around $55 a share. Last year, Mrs. Walton's wealth was estimated at $18 billion. (The successes of these three CEOs can be linked back to one common factor: customer service. Find out about them in The CEO Dream Team - Walton, Schwab, Marcus And Blank.)
- Alice Walton
Prior to joining the ranks of the ultra-rich, Alice Walton began her career as an equity analyst. In the late 1980s, she founded an investment bank called the Llama Group. The company was involved in several activities, including structured finance and real estate. Ms. Walton was a key player in the development and financing of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. In fact, the airport's terminal bears her name. In 2009, her net worth was an estimated $18 billion. In addition to her numerous successful endeavors, she is also the daughter of Sam Walton.
- Liliane Bettencourt
Mrs. Bettencourt is the wealthiest woman in Europe. Her father, Eugene Schueller, founded the cosmetics and beauty giant, L'Oreal and Mrs. Bettencourt inherited much of her wealth from him. At 87 years old, she remains the largest individual shareholder of L'Oreal, which is now a public company. Mrs. Bettencourt lost an undisclosed amount of money through investments made with a hedge fund adviser linked to Bernard Madoff, however her net worth remains stout at approximately $14 billion.
- Susanne Klatten
In addition to her wealth, Germany's richest woman has a strong educational business background. Mrs. Klatten earned her undergraduate degree in finance and an MBA with an advertising concentration. Upon the death of her father, Herbert Quandt, Klatten was granted the majority stake in Altana, a pharmaceutical and chemicals manufacturing firm. In addition to being a shareholder, Klatten sits on the company's supervisory board. Klatten also inherited a sizable stake in auto manufacturer BMW. Her 2009 net worth is estimated at $10 billion. (Find out what to consider before taking a ride with stocks from this industry, in Analyzing Auto Stocks.)
- Birgit Rausing
Mrs. Rausing is an art historian who, along with her three children, inherited control of the Swedish packaging giant, Tetra Laval after the passing of her husband, Gad Rausing. Tetra Laval is a privately-held company. In 2008, Tetra Laval boasted revenues of $15.5 billion. Rausing is 86 years old, and her net worth is approximately $11 billion.
- Jacqueline Mars
Mars is primarily known for manufacturing candy, such as M&M's and Skittles, however the company has six lines of business which brought in annual sales of over $28 billion. Ms. Mars' father and grandfather founded Mars, Incorporated, and the company remains privately held by the Mars family. Ms. Mars is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and, as of 2009, was worth approximately $9 billion. (Stick to your budget every day with the 15 simple tips in Squeeze A Greenback Out Of Your Latte.)
- Anne Cox Chambers
At 90 years old, Mrs. Chambers is the principal owner of media conglomerate Cox Enterprises. Cox is a privately-held firm that owns Cox Communications, the once public cable and telecommunications company. Mrs. Chambers was actively involved in business, serving as the first female director of a bank in Atlanta, Georgia. She also served as an ambassador to Belgium. Her net worth is estimated at $9 billion.
- Abigail Johnson
Mrs. Johnson's family has the controlling interest in Fidelity Investments, the largest mutual fund company in America. Johnson, a Harvard Business School graduate, served in multiple capacities at Fidelity, including an equity portfolio manager, president of the mutual fund division and head of the employer services division. Mrs. Johnson's wealth is estimated at $10 billion.
Some of these women may not have started out as investors. However, all of them have substantial stakes in businesses, which they have held on to for years. They have lead the companies they mange to prosperity, and many of the aforementioned individuals are well-known global philanthropists. (Muriel Siebert has blazed many paths for investors, and is the first woman to sit on the NYSE. Find out more about her in Muriel Siebert: Female Finance Pioneer.)