World’s richest woman, L’Oréal’s Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, trans-generational wealth and Nigeria

Have you considered Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers?

For what? I am happily married.

And I am not? Oh common, you know I’m just trying to have a conversation here.

I know where you are going with this.

You do? Please tell me

I won’t. Nigeria was not colonized by the French but the English. You must stop this your constant comparisons.

It is not comparisons but examination, since the unexamined life is not worth living. Who made that statement again?

Does it matter who says what?

Of course. The weight of words is directly proportional to the stature of the speaker’s own faith in, and actual reflection of the things said.

What did Bettencourt-Meyers say?

A lot but my interest is not something she said as much as something she represents around which the rest of us should have a decent conversation. She has become a symbol, especially for those of us in Nigeria

What is that?

Trans-generational wealth. She has become a symbol of trans-generational wealth, even though she is herself a shrewd and savvy businesswoman. One who has grown the wealth, begun by her grandfather, in leaps and bounds. You know how we like to talk about wealth, show off wealth and the things in between.

It’s who we are

It’s something called learned behaviour; something we acquired. Something we can modify. Something we can change. Her grand-father, Eugene Schueller started it all. He was a pharmacist. In the course of his practice, he invented a dye that was used to change the colour of hair. Do you know how many Nigerians have created similar products but none of them have produced a significant fraction of the wealth currently residing in the hands of the world’s richest woman.

Please don’t do that; don’t compare those Nigerian’s and Bettencourt-Meyers’ grandfather. Apart from their different generations, their social conditions were markedly different from one other. This is an important conversation but it should be approached the right way.

Bettencourt-Meyers’ grandfather was born in 1881. Do you know when Alhassan Dantata was born?

No

  1. And they died two years apart. Schueller in 1957, Dantata in 1955

So?

Please help me. I’ve been looking for families of extremely wealthy persons who lived in that same era, who successfully transferred wealth to their children’s children, like those two gentlemen did.

Where have you been looking?

The archives. I grew up hearing the names of some extremely wealthy persons but they seem to have Gone with the Wind, I mean with the wealth.

Pocket your worry, my friend. You may not have seen or heard the kind of transgenerational wealth the story of Schueller and Dantata communicates but I promise you, you will eventually see what you seek. Below are my reasons:

Firstly, there is a new generation of wealthy persons who have given this issue thought, and consequently, divorced themselves from the indiscipline that runs counter to what you seek. For example, they are not going to insist that their wives, children or relations automatically take over the running of their businesses upon their passing just because of reason of biological affinity. They must earn the right to take over those businesses through competence, skill and conduct. If not, then the best they would get would be a seat on the board of those companies.

Secondly, these generation of wealthy Nigerians know the power of owning quality real estate, like Bettencourt-Meyers’ grandfather did. You noticed I qualified the kind of real estate. Real estate is not just location. It is also type of property. Many of those you said have gone with their wealth had abundant real estate, even in prime locations but the type of properties built in those locations, with the passage of time, means that the real value of the property is a little more than the land itself. Whereas if they built top notch commercial residences, offices, hotels, etc, the story would have been different.

Lastly, I believe you should go and observe closely the lifestyle of those traders who left Onitsha Main Market, and relocated to Lagos to begin a new life, immediately after the Nigerian Civil War. Without question, those gentlemen, plus a sprinkling of individuals here and there, across the country, will produce high scores in the trans-generational wealth index, in years to come.

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