On Monday evening, a tragedy happened when a massive fire swept through the 800-year-old Notre-Dame cathedral. The medieval cathedral is located at the heart of Paris and is one of the most iconic structures in the French capital. News of the fire spread fast but after the blaze was contained it became clear that the extent of damage was huge. The French president promised a major reconstruction of the Notre-Dame. Although many experts feel that it could take at least a decade to complete the job, Macron promised to restore the cathedral in five years.
The project could cost hundreds of millions but it seems some of France’s richest people are ready to step in. Bernard Arnault, the richest person in France, and Francois Pinault, the second richest person in the country, have been leading a fundraiser to rebuild the razed down cathedral and the two have apparently raised millions of dollars already. Pinault’s net worth, according to Forbes, is $35.1 billion. Arnault, on the other hand, has a net worth of $92.3 billion. He leads LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton and Sephora. Pinault is the honorary chairman of Kering, the company which now owns the flourishing brand Gucci.
The two have been business rivals for quite some time now. This rivalry started in the late 1990s and early 2000s when they both went head to head over the control of Italian fashion brand Gucci. The battle, which lasted two and a half years, ended with Arnault folding. The leader of LVMH had to sell his 8 million Gucci shares to Pinault at a cost of $94 a share. Since then, the two have competed in various spheres including the art world.
The rivalry could also be seen playing out moments after the Notre-Dame fire. It started with Pinault pledging donations to the reconstruction of Notre-Dame. But the pledge also triggered his rival Arnault to swing into action. The LVMH chairman pledged donations that far outweighed what Pinault was willing to offer. Pinault, through his son Francois-Henri and current Kering CEO, said that his family was willing to donate $113 million to rebuild the Notre Dame. Barely nine hours later, LVMH said that it was pledging $226 million. It was double what Pinault had promised.
Despite the rivalry, many people agree that the donations are for a good cause. As a matter of fact, there have been other business people in France who have also stepped up. So far, the total amount pledged stands at $730 million. Some of the notable donors include the Bettencourt-Meyer family and the French oil giant Total. Apple CEO Tim Cook also pledged to donate money for the reconstruction.
The biggest challenge however for the rebuilding of Notre-Dame is time. While French president Emmanuel Macron has said that the government will need five years to complete the job, a lot of restoration experts are skeptical. They think that the amount of work needed is quite huge. The great thing is that most of the precious artifacts in the church were salvaged and are in good condition.