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The world's 9 wealthiest women

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New York Times

While the ranks of billionaires form an elite club, there's even a smaller subset: women with more than $1 billion in assets.

Roughly 12 percent of the world's billionaires are women, representing a small but powerful group with interests in some of the globe's biggest corporations, according to Wealth-X, an advisory firm that specializes in what it calls the "ultra high net worth" clique.

Aside from being a smaller group than male billionaires, who number more than 2,000, women billionaires are more likely to have come by their enormous fortunes through inheritance, rather than via entrepreneurship. Only about 17 percent of women billionaires are self-made, compared with 60 percent of men, Wealth-X notes. But that's likely to change, according to David S. Friedman, president of Wealth-X.

"In general, the trend in the past has been that men are the ones that traditionally started businesses, but that's changing quickly," Friedman told CBS MoneyWatch. "You have the emergence of the "lean in" movement, and (Yahoo CEO) Marissa Mayer showing up on the scene, so you have the platform to develop more women entrepreneurs."

Take Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook (FB). With a net worth of just over $1 billion, she's one of a younger generation of women who are making their own fortunes, Friedman noted.

Women who are self-made may want to be more in the limelight than those who inherited their billions, Friedman said. Sandberg, for example, has made it her mission to boost women in leadership roles through her book "Lean In" and through her foundation of the same name.

In what Wealth-X calls the "ultra affluent" segment -- people with a net worth of up to $30 million -- about one-third of women are self-made, indicating that the next generation of the world's richest women will include more entrepreneurs along with those who inherited their money.

While the current crop of the world's richest women owe their fortunes to largely to inheritance, many have leadership roles in the businesses started by family members.

Read on to find out more about the world's nine wealthiest women.

​1. Christy Walton: $41.3 billion

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Christy Walton owes her fortune to the founders of Walmart (WMT), the Walton family, although she married into the clan. Her husband, John Walton, died in 2005 at the age of 58 when he crashed a small experimental plane he was piloting in Wyoming. John Walton was one of Walmart founder Sam Walton's four children.

Her fortune is tied to the 12.4 percent stake she inherited from her husband, according to Bloomberg. She also owns a stake in solar-panel manufacturer First Solar (FSLR) and is likely to have more than $5 billion in cash and other investable assets, according to a Bloomberg estimate.

While a private person, Christy Walton in 2013 financed a film called "Bless Me, Ultima," based on a 1972 novel about a New Mexican boy who is guided by an older healer named Ultima. In an interview, Christy Walton said she was inspired by a near-death experience to make the movie.

While coming under fire for failing to take the Giving Pledge, which is the vow created by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates to donate most of one's wealth to philanthropy, Christy Walton has supported institutions such as the University of Arkansas and The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation.

​2. Alice Walton: $38.5 billion

REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Being the youngest child of Walmart founder Sam Walton has its perks, such as a multibillion-dollar inheritance. Even though she owns 12.7 percent of Walmart's shares, she has been the least involved in Walmart's operations out of Sam Walton's surviving children, according to Forbes.

After a brief stint as a buyer for Walmart after she graduated from college, Alice Walton set out to work in finance, managing money at E.F. Hutton. Later, she worked at the Walton family's closely held bank, Arvest Bank, and in 1988 she started her own investment bank, called Llama Co., which closed in 1998 after the bond market crash.

Alice Walton, who now enjoys breeding horses and working on her art museum, has had her share of controversy and scandal, including being accused by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission of making "unsuitable" options trades in 1979. In 1989, she hit and killed a woman with her car, although no charges were filed. She also was arrested in 2011 for driving under the influence, but Texas prosecutors later dropped the case, according to Bloomberg.

Thanks to her spending on the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, and her immense wealth combined with what critics say is lagging philanthropic giving, Alice Walton has come under fire from Walmart employees, who staged a protest outside her Park Avenue apartment last year.

​3. Liliane Bettencourt: $34.9 billion


While not as well known to Americans as the Waltons, Bettencourt's wealth stems from a familiar brand name: L'Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics maker. Bettencourt inherited her father's stake in the business. An only child, she started working at L'Oreal when she was just 15 years old.

Now suffering from dementia, Bettencourt was at the center of what the French call "L'affaire Bettencourt" in 2010, when her butler taped conversations between Bettencourt and her financial advisor that indicated she may have tried to avoid French taxes by shifting money into Swiss bank accounts.

In January, 10 people went on trial for allegedly trying to defraud Bettencourt by taking advantage of her dementia in order to gain gifts and donations. The defendants include her former night nurse and her former accountant. Bettencourt hasn't appeared in public since 2012, according to The Guardian.

​4. Jacqueline Mars: $26.8 billion

Jacqueline Mars owes her fortune to sweet treats. Along with her brothers, she owns Mars Inc., the world's second-largest confectionary and maker of household candies such as M&Ms and Snickers.

Candy runs in the Mars family, with her grandfather Frank Mars starting his candy business from his home in Tacoma, Washington. Mars and her siblings aren't high-profile people, although she serves on the board of directors of the National Sporting Library and Fine Art Museum and is a trustee of the U.S. Equestrian Team, according to Forbes.

In 2013, Mars pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of reckless driving in connection with a fatal car crash, for which she received a $2,500 fine and a suspended driver's license for six months. The woman who died in the crash, Irene Ellisor, wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Mars said she fell asleep while driving.

​5. Laurene Jobs: $19.3 billion

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New York Times

After Apple (AAPL) co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011, his widow, Laurene Jobs, inherited his stakes in Walt Disney (DIS) and Apple, making her the world's fifth-wealthiest woman.

A graduate of Stanford's business school and the University of Pennsylvania, Jobs worked at Goldman Sachs under Jon Corzine as a fixed-income strategist for three years. While working on her MBA, she met Steve Jobs when he appeared at the university for a speech. Two years later, they were married.

A publicity-shy person, Jobs serves on the boards of the Emerson Collective and College Track, which focus on helping low-income students. She's also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the White House Council for Community Solutions.

​6. Elaine Marshall: $17.3 billion

Marshall owes her billions to Koch Industries, one of the biggest closely held companies in the world. She inherited her almost 15 percent stake in the business -- which makes products such as Quilted Northern toilet paper and Brawny paper towels -- from her late husband, E. Pierce Marshall.

Pierce Marshall's name might be familiar to some for his fight with model Anna Nicole Smith, who married his father, Howard Marshall. The 16-year-long battle over the family fortune reached the Supreme Court twice, although neither Pierce Marshall nor Anna Nicole Smith lived to see its outcome. Still, Anna Nicole Smith's marriage to Elaine Marshall's father-in-law means the one-time stripper was her mother-in-law.

Elaine Marshall prepares her own trust tax returns to the IRS, according to Bloomberg News.

​7. Susanne Klatten: $16.9 billion


Klatten ranks as Germany's richest woman, thanks to her 11.6 percent stake in luxury automaker BMW. She also owns stakes in other companies including the wind turbine developer Nordex and the chemical company Altana.

Her father, Herbert Quandt, saved BMW after World War II and expanded it into the world's largest luxury automaker. She inherited stakes in BMW and Altana when her father died in 1982. After interning at banks and management consultancies, Klatten started working at BMW under an alias, Susanne Kant. She met engineer Jan Klatten while working there.

Susanne Klatten hasn't been free of scandal or troubles. In 1978, police managed to thwart a kidnapping attack on her and her mother, while more recently she was threatened with blackmail from a Swiss investment banker named Helg Sgarbi, with whom she had had an affair. He ended up being sentenced to six years in jail in 2009 for his threat to release sex videotapes unless she paid him millions.

​8. Johanna Quandt: $14.1 billion

Michael Dalder / Reuters

Quandt was the former secretary of BMW chief Herbert Quandt before she became his third wife. The daughter of art historians, she inherited an almost 17 percent stake in the luxury automaker when her husband died in 1982.

Johanna Quandt and other members of the family were the focus of a critical documentary called "The Silence of the Quandts," which looked at the family's wartime links to the Nazis. Harald Quandt, Herbert's half-brother, was a child from Magda Goebbel's first marriage, and the Quandt family factories used more than 50,000 forced civilian laborers, concentration camp workers and prisoners of war from 1940 to 1945, according to Bloomberg.

​9. Iris Fontbona: $13.8 billion

Fontbona is the head of Chile's wealthiest family, which owes its riches to copper producer Antofagasta and Quinenco, which owns Banco de Chile and other companies. She married businessman Andronico Luksic when she was just 18. While Luksic had started out as a Ford salesman, he ended up building a massive empire that included beach resorts, beer companies and media assets.

According to Bloomberg, the Luksic family makes investment decisions via a family council.

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