Walmart heiress Alice Walton is the richest woman in the world

Walmart heiress Alice Walton is once again the richest woman in the world. 

With the death of the French heiress of cosmetics giant L'Oreal Liliane Bettencourt, Walton has gone from the second richest to the richest woman on the planet.

Prior to her death, Bettencourt was the 15th richest person in the world, while Walton was No. 19.

With an estimated net worth of $38.4 billion, Walton is a member of one of the richest families in the world. 

Alice, along with older brothers Jim and Rob — who also graced the list, produced with Wealth-Xa company that conducts research on the superwealthy — have a combined net worth of $101.5 billion, thanks primarily to their stake in retail giant Walmart.

Unlike her brothers, 66-year-old Walton never took an active role in running the retail empire her father started in 1962, though she's still managed to become the target of pushback from minimum-wage Walmart employees who view her highfalutin lifestyle as insensitive and ignorant to the plight of many workers.

RELATED: The richest women of 2017: 

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10 richest women in the world of 2017

Former No. 1. Liliane Bettencourt

Net worth: $39.3B

Origin of wealth: L'Oreal

Via Forbes

Current No.1 Alice Walton

Net worth: $34.3B

Origin of wealth: Wal-Mart

Via Forbes

2. Jacqueline Mars

Net worth: $27.2B

Origin of wealth: Candy

Via Forbes

3. Maria Franca Fissolo

Net worth: $25.3B

Origin of wealth: Nutella, chocolates

Via Forbes

4. Susanne Klatten

Net worth: $20.5B

Origin of wealth: BMW, pharmaceuticals

Via Forbes

5. Laurene Powell Jobs

Net worth: $20.2B

Origin of wealth: Apple, Disney

Via Forbes

6. Gina Rinehart

Net worth: $14.5B

Origin of wealth: Mining

Via Forbes

7. Abigail Johnson

Net worth: $14.4B

Origin of wealth: Money management

Via Forbes

8. Iris Fontbona

Net worth: $13.1B

Origin of wealth: Mining

Via Forbes

9. Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken

Net worth: $12.7B

Origin of wealth: Heineken

Via Forbes

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Instead of spending time at Walmart, Walton became a patron of the arts at a young age. When she was just 10 years old, Walton saved up her allowance to buy a reproduction of Picasso's "Blue Nude," she told The New Yorker.

"Collecting has been such a joy, and such an important part of my life in terms of seeing art, and loving it,” she said.

She began buying watercolor pieces in the 1970s and adorning the walls of her Rocking W Ranch with them. From there she moved on to more serious original works, particularly those by classic American artists; her immense personal collection now includes pieces from Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, and Georgia O'Keefe, among others.

In 2011, she opened the $50 million Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas to house her $500 million collection. When it opened, Crystal Bridges already had four times the endowment of the famous Whitney Museum in New York.

Before delving into the art realm, Walton made a brief career as an equity analyst and even founded her own investment bank, Llama Company, in 1988. The company closed about 10 years later, shortly after Walton was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (not for the first time).

Twice divorced with no children, Walton is also a lover of horses, which she breeds at Rocking W Ranch, located in Texas, and rides competitively. The 1,456-acre ranch, however, is currently for sale for nearly $20 million.

Walton is one of just four women to make our list of the 50 richest people on earth — and each inherited their fortune. The next wealthiest woman is 93-year-old Liliane Bettencourt, the French heiress to the L'Oreal fortune, with a net worth of $29 billion.  

Melissa Stanger contributed reporting to this piece. 

NOW WATCH: Here’s where the 20 richest people in America live

More from Business Insider:  
MEET THE WALTONS: A Guide To America's Wealthiest Family 
Walmart is closing hundreds of stores and laying off thousands of employees 
THE MUSEUM THAT WAL-MART BUILT: Heiress Alice Walton's Paean To Art Opens Tomorrow

SEE ALSO: The 50 richest people on earth

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