(Bloomberg News) The German billionaires behind Coty Inc.'s $10 billion bid for Avon Products Inc., the world's largest direct seller of cosmetics, are the heirs to a 189-year- old chemicals empire their father helped transform into one of the largest consumer-goods companies in the world.

The four adopted children of Albert Reimann -- Renate Reimann-Haas, 60, Wolfgang Reimann, 59, Stefan Reimann-Andersen, 48, and Matthias Reimann-Andersen, 47 -- each own a quarter of closely held investment company Joh. A. Benckiser SE, according to a company spokesman. The family's combined net worth is at least $20 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Through Vienna-based JAB and its subsidiaries, the Reimanns own 80 percent of Coty, which makes Calvin Klein fragrances and OPI nail polish. They also own Labelux Group GmbH, which manages luxury brands Bally, Belstaff and Jimmy Choo, and more than 15 percent of London-based Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc, maker of Durex condoms and Nurofen painkillers.

"The Reimanns prefer to stay out of the limelight, leaving the day-to-day business to professional managers they have chosen to trust," Michael Woywode, a professor who follows the family at the University of Mannheim Business School in the German city of the same name, said in a telephone interview April 5. "They all keep a low profile."

The reclusive billionaires, whose individual names have never appeared on a major international rich list, were thrust into the limelight last week when New York-based Avon rejected Coty's unsolicited cash bid on April 2. The heirs are based in Ludwigshafen, in Germany's Rhine-Neckar region, which is home to BASF SE, the world's biggest chemical maker.

'Three Fathers'

Peter Harf, who has worked for JAB for more than three decades, is the family holding company's chief executive officer. Coty is operated by Chairman Bart Becht and CEO Bernd Beetz.

"Coty's bid for the Avon baby has three fathers," Harf said in an e-mail on April 5. "Bernd Beetz, Bart Becht and myself."

The Reimanns support JAB's bid for the door-to-door seller of cosmetics and skin-care products, according to a person familiar with the family's thinking who asked not to be named because the matter is private.

Coty, which makes fragrances for celebrities such as Beyonce and Sarah Jessica Parker, had tried for months to sell itself to Avon in a deal that would have left it as the biggest shareholder of a combined public company. It is now seeking to persuade Avon's investors to support a deal that would involve the cosmetics company becoming closely held.