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French entrepreneurs confirm €300m Notre-Dame pledge

Two of the most high-profile French entrepreneur donors, who together pledged to give €300 million to help reconstruct the stricken Cathedral of Notre-Dame, have formally confirmed their donations.

Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of luxury goods giant LVMH, this week signed a convention with the cathedral's management association, la Fondation Notre-Dame, for his promised gift of €200 million.

François Pinault and François-Henri Pinault - respectively the father-and-son chairman and CEO of the Kering luxury retail group - are set to do the same on Monday September 30, for their pledge of €100 million.

Neither party had previously suggested that they would go back on their original pledges, which were first made immediately after Notre-Dame was severely damaged by fire in April this year.

Yet, the level of publicity surrounding the money - and growing public alarm over the fact that no funds had yet been transferred or confirmed - led the Fondation Notre-Dame to take action to confirm the donations publicly.

Other public confirmations - also in the form of signed conventions with the Fondation - are set to follow, including one from the Ile-de-France region at the end of October, for €10 million.

Other major entrepreneurial sponsors include the Bettencourt foundation and cosmetics giant L’Oréal - amounting to €200 million.

Donations from these major sponsors are expected to be paid out over several years, as and when the money is needed for the restoration work.

These sponsors will also be invited to take part in the restoration committee that is overseeing the work, which is being managed by culture minister Franck Riester.

Michel Aupetit, the archbishop of Paris, said: “These contributions are major for this work - which could be the work of the century.” He added his “deep acknowledgement of these major entrepreneurs, as well as the great many other donors”.

The Fondation Notre-Dame has received pledges worth €380 million in total, to help with the restoration effort. This includes not only the major sponsors, but also gifts from 46,000 individuals, 60 other businesses, and 29 public groups, including from France and abroad.

It may yet also receive up to €218 million from the heritage fund, la Fondation du Patrimoine.

Bishop Aupetit also said that he continues to  receive pledges and donations from more than 140 people every week.

So far, the budget for securing and stabilising the damaged Notre-Dame building has reached €85 million, of which €31 million has already been spent.

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