- Bernard Arnault and François Pinault are the richest and second-richest men in France, worth $92 billion and $35 billion, respectively.
- The two billionaires both head major luxury-goods empires – LVMH for Arnault and Kering for Pinault – and have been locked in what’s been described as a long-standing feud by The New York Times.
- But by Tuesday and within 24 hours of a fire sweeping through France’s Notre-Dame Cathedral, both men had announced they were pledging money to the cathedral’s repairs.
- Their pledges – $339 million in total – are now part of the $730 million in donations that have been promised to the cause by a variety of businesspeople and companies so far.
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On Monday evening, a massive fire swept through the 800-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral. Standing in the heart of the French capital, the iconic structure was undergoing major reconstruction when the fire started.
Ranked as the richest and second-richest men in France, Bernard Arnault and François Pinault head major luxury-goods empires. Pinault’s net worth is $35 billion according to Forbes real-time data, while Arnault is worth $92 billion. Arnault leads LVMH – the parent company of Louis Vuitton and Sephora – and Pinault serves as honorary chairman for his company, Kering, which owns the flourishing Gucci brand.
As Thomas Adamson wrote for the AP, “The famed rivalry of Arnault and Pinault, whose names rhyme, goes back decades.”
The pair’s undeclared war came to a head over Gucci in the late 1990s and 2000s, when both competed for control of the iconic Italian fashion house. The 2.5-year battle ended with Arnault selling his 8 million shares to Pinault for $94 apiece and giving up his stake in the company.
Since then, the two have competed in the art world as well, according to The New York Times.
Most recently, the rivalry could be seen playing out in the aftermath of the Notre-Dame fire, when Pinault’s announcement of a pledged donation to the cathedral’s repairs was far exceeded, hours later, by Arnault’s.
Pinault’s son, François-Henri, Kering’s CEO, announced to Agence France-Presse that the family would donate €100 million, or $113 million, from their holding group at 9:46 p.m. CEST.
La famille Pinault débloque 100 millions d'euros pour Notre-Dame de Paris (François-Henri Pinault à l'AFP)
— William Plummer (@PlummerWilliam) April 15, 2019
Nine hours later, LVMH announced that Arnault and his family would be donating. And their pledged donation – at €200 million, or $226 million – roundly doubled Pinault’s.
"In the wake of this national tragedy, the Arnault family and the LVMH Group pledge their support for #NotreDame. They will donate a total of 200 million euros to the fund for reconstruction of this architectural work, which is an integral part of the history of France." pic.twitter.com/utvJT8xJht
— LVMH (@LVMH) April 16, 2019
According to Business Insider’s Katie Warren, they are among a variety of businesspeople and companies that have collectively pledged $730 million to rebuilding Notre-Dame.
Other wealthy donors include the Bettencourt-Meyer family, heirs to the L’Oreal fortune, alongside French oil giant Total and major French bank Crédit Agricole. Business Insider’s David Smith also reported Apple’s CEO Tim Cook pledged to donate money to the cause.
Business Insider asked LVMH and Kering for comment on the timing of their donations but have not heard back.