She has nothing of the socialite boss, botoxed and entrenched in a Manhattan penthouse. Discreet, Alice Walton, 67, is the quintessential Wall Street bling-bling anti-heroine and must hate seeing portraits of her bloom in the press around the world this Friday morning. Because since the death on Thursday of the heiress of L’Oréal Liliane Bettencourt, she is the new richest woman in the world. Modest, keen on art and little involved in the affairs of the Walmart empire of which she is the heiress, Alice Walton shuns social life and lives out of sight on her Texan ranch.
Walmart heiress Alice Walton is now the richest woman in the world https://t.co/itbTSIbie3 pic.twitter.com/xWLkRRiIZf
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) September 21, 2017
About her, her father writes in his autobiography “Made in America”: “Alice is the one who most resembles me, but she is even more volatile than me.”
1The richest woman
Until her death on Thursday, Frenchwoman Liliane Bettencourt was the richest woman in the world. The fortune of the heiress of L’Oréal was estimated at 39.5 billion dollars, or 33 billion euros. From now on, the title falls to the American Alice Walton, heiress of the Walmart empire, who has a fortune of 33.8 billion dollars, or about 28 billion euros.
Liliane Bettencourt, the emblem of the great French dynasties
In 2017, the number of wealthiest women in the “Forbes” ranking fell from 202 to 227. “Of the 2,043 richest people in the world, women represent 11% “, writes” Forbes “. Other richest women in the world include the American heiress of Mars chocolate bars, Jacqueline Mars, or the Italian heiress of Nutella and the Ferrero group, Maria Franca Fissolo.
Alice Walton is 67 years old. She is the daughter of Sam Walton, founder of the American supermarket chain Walmart, the world’s number one retailer and the country’s largest employer. But unlike her two brothers Jim and Rob with whom she now owns 51% of the family business, she has never had an active role in the management of the group installed in 27 countries, details “Business Insider”.
Alice Walton with Jim and Rob, her two brothers. (April L Brown / AP / SIPA)
After a Bachelor of Art in Economics and Finances at Trinity College in San Antonio, Texas, she did a brief stint at Walmart as a buyer for children’s clothing departments. “I was having fun there, but I was not passionate about it,” she said later. After leaving Walmart in the 1970s, she became financial analyst before founding the Llama Company investment bank.
Passionate about art, Alice Walton owns several masterpieces that she began to collect from an early age. His first purchase was a reproduction of a Picasso “Blue Nude”. Today she owns including works by Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, Jasper Johns or Georgia O’Keeffe. His personal collection is estimated at $ 500 million. As such, in 2011 she founded (and funded $ 1.2 billion) Crystal Brides, an art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, a stone’s throw from Walmart HQ. A project ironically called “Alice’s Wonderland” by the “New Yorker”.
The idea, by establishing itself in this region, one of the poorest in the United States, was to revitalize the area by bringing in tourists. A bet that was partly successful since the establishment welcomed more than 2 million visitors between its opening and 2015.
In her spare time, Alice Walton is herself a watercolourist. “And she’s not bad,” jokes in the “Washington Post” John Wilmerding, an art historian who sometimes advises the heiress. He adds :
“Some of his watercolors are exhibited on his walls in Texas, not far from masterpieces by Sargent, Hassam, Homer … I won’t go so far as to say that his are in the same ‘league’, but they are perfectly respectable. ”
6… and horse breeder
The “New Yorker” portrays Alice Walton as a reserved woman, having retained from her childhood a strong accent of Arkansas. “And she is not a socialite patron of Park Avenue: her face is scarred by the sun and seems to have never experienced a scalpel.” She does not dye her hair, and wears an elegant square or gray bun. In fact, sums up the weekly, “for such a rich person, she lives quite modestly”.
Along with her brothers, Alice Walton grew up in Bentonville, Arkansas. Like her father who has often been portrayed as the self-made man born in deep America, she enjoys fishing. She also and especially loves horses, with whom she spends most of her time in her ranch de Fort Worth au Texas.
Alice Walton in 2003 at her Fort Worth ranch. (SIPANY/SIPA)
Twice divorced, she has never had children but speaks proudly of Jesse Lennox, the 23-year-old who trains his horses. She loves going to encourage him in competition.
Although she comes from a conservative family, Alice Walton last year subsidized Hillary Clinton’s campaign to the tune of $ 350,000, through the support group Ready for Hillary. Because, Arkansas Connection requires, the two women have known each other for a long time. A lawyer in the 1990s, Hillary Clinton had followed her husband to Arkansas. He had just been elected governor there. She then sat on the board of directors of Walmart, which is headquartered in Bentonville (and at the time she was the only woman to sit on it).
8… but former Bush supporter
In contrast, Alice Walton’s former financial contributions have tended to be more in favor of Republicans. In 2004, for example, she had spent $ 2 million … to support the re-election of George W. Bush “in order to avoid a new September 11”. In 2012, she generously supported Mitt Romney against Barack Obama.
9Secret, and little talkative
With such a heritage, Alice Walton could have chosen a comfortable and worldly life in a New York penthouse. She preferred discretion and declined most interview requests. And when “Forbes” announces to her that she wants to make her one on her in 2013, she accepts but will reveal almost nothing to them about her.
Unlike other businessmen or businesswomen, Alice Walton places little importance on press honors or public sympathy. Despite its great discretion, it is sometimes the target of detractors of Walmart who consider its lifestyle and its concerns too disconnected from the realities of the small hands of its hypermarkets.
10Target of anti-Walmart
Employees of the group have demonstrated several times under the windows of Alice Walton’s cozy New York condo (because yes, she still has one), relates the “Guardian”. In the United States, Walmart remains synonymous with precarious contracts and low wages (the minimum is now set at 10 dollars an hour). Their main demand: to raise the group’s minimum hourly wage to $ 15. Interviewed by the British daily, Courtney Moore, one of the demonstrators, explains: “In the rest room of our Walmart, we have a poster of Sam Walton saying: ‘The faces of our cashiers are the first thing our customers see when arriving, and the last when leaving the store. We are a family. ‘ And we should be treated like this! ” She adds, exasperated: “The Waltons can’t disagree with that, these words come straight from their father’s mouth!”
“The Walton heirs are killing their father’s dreams!”
But on these subjects, Alice Walton has never taken an open position. Another criticism that may have been made when she opened the Crystal Brides in Bentonville: her stated desire to want to revitalize a deserted medium-sized town. A marketing argument deemed hypocritical even though his father’s empire encouraged the closure of small businesses in the cities. A phenomenon studied in town planning and mocked in “The Simpsons” on such a scale that it bears a name: the “Wal-Mart Effect”.