Billionaires Behind Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent Lead $450 Million in Pledges to Rebuild Notre Dame

Two of France's richest men, long locked in a very public rivalry, are once again pitted against each other -- this time over flashy and competing donations to rebuild Notre Dame.Billionaire luxury tycoons -- Bernard Arnault, 70, and Francois Pinault, 82 -- are among France's fiercest business competitors and patrons.On Tuesday, their rivalry reached dramatic heights when it was announced Pinault, his son and their company Artemis would immediately donate 100 million euros ($113 million) to help finance renovations to Notre Dame after it was seriously damaged in an inferno during building works.Hours later, Arnault shot back with an announcement that he, his family and his luxury company LVMH would pledge double that amount -- 200 million euros ($226 million) -- for the restoration of the church that was immortalized in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" -- an eternal story of obsession and jealousy.The famed rivalry of Arnault and Pinault, whose names rhyme, goes back decades."They're like competing boys, but the stakes run into the billions," said Long Nguyen, fashion editor at Flaunt magazine.Arnault is France's -- and Europe's -- richest man and CEO of the world's biggest luxury group, LVMH, the owner of iconic fashion houses Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. Pinault founded the world's second-biggest, Kering, formerly PPR, that acquired rival brand Saint Laurent in a face-off."The Notre Dame donations are the latest in a long line ... They run competing fashion houses and both like the center stage," he added.Both men also possess a sizeable art collection -- and a desire to show it off in competing museums.Pinault's son Francois-Henri married actress Salma Hayek and is often in the society pages, while Arnault's son Antoine fathered children to supermodel Natalia Vodianova.  Continue reading...

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