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The incredible life of Margarita Louis-Dreyfus - one of the world's richest women

She’s worth close to €6 billion. And last week she gave birth to twins at the age of 53…

1 Source: Louis Dreyfus Group

MARGARITA LOUIS-DREYFUS is one of the richest women in the world with a net worth of $6.4 billion (€5.7 billion).

But the Russian-born businesswoman, dubbed the “Tsarina” by the French press, in reference to the former Russian royal family, hasn’t always been so wealthy.

Her life totally changed when she met her husband Robert Louis-Dreyfus on a flight in 1988 – transforming her life as a former computer equipment salesperson to full-time mother and homemaker.

When Robert Louis-Dreyfus died from leukemia a few years later, her life took another dramatic turn again as she took over the reins at his commodities company and met a new partner – the former head of the Swiss National Bank.

In March 2016 she gave birth to twin girls. Their births were announced as her company, the Louis Dreyfus Company, reported its annual results.

Take a look at her incredible life here.

Margarita Louis-Dreyfus was born Margarita Bogdanova in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Russia, on 1 July 1962.

2 Source: Uefa Foundation

Tragically, her parents died in a train accident when she was seven. She was raised mainly by her grandfather, Leonid Bogdanov, who made sure she got an education. She studied law at Moscow State University. Leonid Bogdanov died in 1985.

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She followed up her law qualification by gaining an economics degree from the Leningrad Institute of Soviet Trade.

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After university she worked as a circuit-board equipment seller for Laytron AG.

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She also married married a Swiss exchange student in the late 1980s but divorced a year later. The name of her first husband and the dates of the marriage are unknown.

London Olympic Games - Day 2 Source: Neal Simpson

But in 1988 everything changed on a flight from Zurich to London – she met Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

FRANCE SOCCER MARSEILLE Source: AP/Press Association Images

Apparently, during the flight Margarita turned to Dreyfus to ask the time and he “pulled out a photo of his bobtail sheepdog”, according to a Bloomberg interview with Margarita. She was “hooked” on him from then on.

shutterstock_298710884 Source: Shutterstock/Rita Kochmarjova

Robert Louis-Dreyfus is cousins with American actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus – who is famous for starring in TV shows “Seinfeld” and “Veep”.

2015 Primetime Emmy Awards - HBO After Party Source: AP/Press Association Images

His background is also extremely interesting. Growing up in Paris, he came from a wealthy and well-educated family. But he was a bad student and he failed his Baccalauréat, an academic qualification which French students take at the end of high school.

shutter Source: Shutterstock

He was good at poker though. After securing a place at Harvard Business School with a presentation about his experiences during the Six Day War, he financed his studies there from his poker winnings.

shutterstock_8906785 Source: Shutterstock/Lorenzo Mondo

He made his own fortune by rescuing troubled companies, including sportswear giant Adidas and advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi.

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After the plane trip where they met Robert called Margarita to ask her to translate a document into Russian. She told Bloomberg: “I said to him ‘You know, you could ask me out to lunch without any translation,’ and he said, ‘Oh, yes, yes’.”

FRANCE SOCCER TRIAL Source: AP/Press Association Images

Robert and Margarita Louis-Dreyfus married in 1992, and Margarita became a full-time wife, mother, and a Swiss citizen. The couple had three children – Eric and twins Kyril and Maurice (here she’s pictured with Kyril at a Olympique de Marseille game in October 2012).

France Soccer Source: AP/Press Association Images

While married, Robert grew his fortune through his various business roles, eventually becoming the largest shareholder of Olympique de Marseille, a famous French football team, in 1996.

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In 2000, he rejoined the family-owned commodities company that specialises in agriculture, the Louis-Dreyfus Group, which was founded by his great-grandfather in 1851.

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However, in 2009 Robert Louis-Dreyfus died aged 63 from leukemia. Here fans pay homage to Robert at a Marseille home match.

France Soccer Source: AP/Press Association Images

Before his death, Robert set up a family trust called Akira BV to hold his majority stake in Louis-Dreyfus Commodities. He named Margarita the family trustee of the privately-held, Amsterdam-based company.

FRANCE SOCCER MARSEILLE LOUIS-DREYFUS Source: AP/Press Association Images

This meant Margarita inherited chairman positions at both the Louis-Dreyfus Group and Olympique de Marseille.

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At Louis-Dreyfus Group, it is impossible to vote her off the board because her late husband also locked up the shares for 99 years.

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Since her husband’s death, she has had to battle to gain respect at the companies she controls. She told Bloomberg in an interview: “It’s a man’s world, and most of the time, men don’t take women seriously.”

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Philippe Chalmin, an economics professor, told Bloomberg in an interview: “Generally, the boss needs to have been a trader. She’s not like the image of the blonde pin-up wife. You might have expected her to just live off the income from her rich husband’s estate, but that hasn’t been the case.”

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Randel Carlock, co-author of “When Family Businesses Are Best”, told Bloomberg: “There’s not a culture in the world where the in-laws take over a company with the founders’ name on the building where they will be happy.”

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In 2012, Margarita told Bloomberg that her goal is to preserve the Louis-Dreyfus commodities group for Robert’s heirs, which was her “husband’s dying wish”. Here is one of their sons Kyril with his mother in 2012.

France Soccer Source: AP/Press Association Images

Her now 18-year-old twins Kyril and Maurice went to school in Singapore “to expose them to new cultures and broaden their horizons”, she said in the Bloomberg interview. Here is Maurice (left) in his Facebook profile picture.

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Her now 23-year-old son Eric has interned at another commodities giant, Glencore.

Hong Kong Glencore IPO Source: Kin Cheung

However, she did make some huge changes to the company. In 2012 she sold the company’s energy trading business, switched up management, and upped her stake in the Louis-Dreyfus Group.

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During her time as chairman at Marseille she has reportedly fended off a takeover from Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed.

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But her personal life was plunged back into the spotlight when she met Philipp Hildebrand, now 52, in 2013 – the vice chairman of US investment manager BlackRock and former Swiss National Bank chairman.

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In that same year, Hildebrand amicably separated from Kashya Hildebrand after the pair became embroiled in a currency trading scandal.

kashya Source: Youtube

It was alleged Kashya made a 75,000 Swiss franc profit with inside information involving Swiss central bank monetary policy. Philipp Hildebrand had resigned from his SNB position the previous year. He said at the time: “I am sad to take this step, I loved this job, I fought like a lion for it.” He even teared up during his resignation speech.

Bernanke Source: Reed Saxon

There is not much in the media about her personal life during this period but there are plenty of pictures that illustrate the elite circles they both move in. Here they are at a Marseille match in 2014. That’s International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde in the background on the right.

France Soccer League One Source: Francois Mori

On 21 March 2016, the Louis Dreyfus Group confirmed that Margarita gave birth to twin girls. “Mother and babies are doing well,” her company said in statement. However, it did not mention the father.

1 Source: Louis Dreyfus Group

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