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Billionaire philanthropist and socialite Lily Safra dead at 87

Billionaire philanthropist Lily Safra died Saturday in Geneva, according to Brazilian press reports.

The cause of death for the Brazilian-born New York socialite, 87, who owned sprawling homes around the world, including a $600 million estate in the South of France, was not reported. She is scheduled to be buried Monday in a family plot in Geneva.

Lily is the widow of banker Edmond Safra, her fourth husband, who died in a mysterious fire at his penthouse in Monaco in 1999.

Lily Safra at home in La Leopolda, France, in 1991.
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Camilla Parker Bowles with Elton John and Mrs Lily Safra at a charity fundraising event in aid of Ark (Absolute Return for Kids) at Somerset House, London on July 11th, 2002 (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Elton John, Camilla Parker Bowles and Lily Safra in London in 2002.

Edmond Safra, the scion of a storied Lebanese banking family, owned the Trade Development Bank and New York’s Republic National Bank, which was sold to HSBC shortly before his death. At the time, Lily Safra inherited more than $4 billion.

Born in southern Brazil in 1934, Lily became a fixture on the New York social scene after her marriage to Edmond in 1976. The couple were major art collectors, with Lily spending $103.4 million on a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, a record for the sculptor.

The couple owned storied properties on Fifth Avenue, Monaco and in France, where they often entertained at the Villa Leopolda estate that was once owned by Belgian King Leopold and is one of the most expensive residential properties in the world.

Before she married Edmond, Lily was married to an Argentine businessman and Brazilian appliance magnate Alfredo Monteverde, who died in a suicide in Rio de Janeiro in 1969, shooting himself twice in the chest, according to a police report.

An unauthorized biography of Lily Safra written by this reporter was blocked by a court in Brazil in 2013.

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