Luxury magnates pledge RM1.4b to restore Notre Dame

PARIS • France’s luxury-goods tycoons pledged €300 million (RM1.4 billion) to help in the reconstruction of Notre-Dame cathedral after the Paris landmark was ravaged by fire on Monday, answering a call from President Emmanuel Macron for a fundraising campaign.

Francois-Henri Pinault (picture), the chairman and CEO of Gucci owner Kering SA, and his father, Francois Pinault, will donate €100 million from their Artemis investment company, the family said yesterday in an emailed statement. Their archrival, the Arnault family, responded minutes later with a pledge of €200 million and the architectural and design resources of their LVMH fashion conglomerate.

“This tragedy is striking all the French people, and beyond that, all those attached to spiritual values,” Francois-Henri, 56, said in the statement. “Faced with this tragedy, everyone wishes to give life back to this jewel of our heritage as soon as possible.”

The Pinault and Arnault donations kicked off a wave of corporate and individual giving. Macron, who vowed to rebuild the 850-year-old Gothic monument, called for contributions and said he would draw on the world’s best talents for the task.

The elder Pinault, 82, is the world’s 23rd-richest person, with a fortune estimated at US$37.3 billion (RM154.42 billion), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bernard Arnault, the main shareholder of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, ranks third globally with a US$90.4 billion fortune.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is considering convening in the coming weeks a conference of international donors to raise the money needed for the restoration, she said yesterday on Twitter.

Other donations began pouring in, at press time, with technology consultant Capgemini SE pledging €1 million. Construction company Vinci SA, the Duval family that owns property developer Groupe Duval and bank BNP Paribas SA also said they would give unspecified amounts.

“Vinci suggests all building companies in France should join forces to rebuild Notre Dame in an industry-wide skills sponsorship drive,” the company said in a statement, noting that the 13th-century wooden beams holding up the roof will never be replaced, while the remaining structure “must be safeguarded”.

The Ile-de-France regional government around Paris will release €10 million in emergency aid to the archdiocese for initial rebuilding work, Valerie Pecresse, the region’s elected head, said in an interview on Radio Classique. People wanting to make donations can do so via the non-profit Fondation du Patrimoine, Pecresse said.

Arnault and his family will donate money “dedicated to the construction of this architectural work, which makes up part of the history of France”.

LVMH “will put at the disposal of the state all of its teams — creative, architectural, financial — to help on the one hand with the long construction work, and on the other hand with the fundraising effort”, the Arnault family said in a statement.

Luxury fortunes dominate the upper reaches of France’s wealth landscape. Arnault is France’s richest person and Pinault the third. L’Oreal SA heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers is the country’s second- wealthiest and the world’s richest woman with a US$53.5 billion fortune. — Bloomberg