French billionaires slow-walk donations to rebuild Notre Dame

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Notre Dame Organist Was Playing When Fire Broke Out

FRANCE (CBS) — They were quick to pledge but are slow to give. The billionaire families that promised to donate hundreds of millions of dollars each to reconstruct Notre Dame cathedral after the storied structure caught fire in April have yet to fully uphold those commitments, according to a cathedral spokesperson. That’s the case, even though some French tycoons’ fortunes having grown dramatically during the first part of the year.

The 14 people from France who earned spots on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index — a number of whom raced to support reconstruction efforts in April — have collectively become $78 billion more wealthy since Dec. 31. Yet while French business moguls pledged more than $500 million to the Notre Dame rebuilding cause, little of that money has landed in the state’s coffers.

Bernaud Arnault and LVMH
LVMH CEO Bernaud Arnault, No. 3 on the Bloomberg list with a net worth of $101 billion, has seen his fortune grow by $32.4 billion since the end of last year. The Arnault family and LVMH Group, which owns Louis Vuitton, Fendi and other luxury brands, pledged 200 million euros ($224 million) to support reconstruction efforts. But to date, they’ve only given 10 million euros ($11.2 million) to the cause, according to the Fondation Notre Dame, one of the four official charities the government selected to feed its fundraiser.

The 10 million euro down payment will be used to secure the construction site, Christophe Rousselot, general delegate for the Fondation Notre Dame, told CBS MoneyWatch. The effort includes erecting a second scaffold to take down the first, built before the fire, to repair the spire. “It solidified in the stone with the fire,” Rousselot said.

All this is required just to lay the foundation so that subsequent efforts to rebuild the cathedral can commence.

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