How a long-standing rivalry between 2 French billionaires helped raise $340 million to rebuild Notre-Dame in 24 hours

Charles Platiau/Reuters; Reuters; Thibault Camus/AP; Yutong Yuan/Business InsiderBernard Arnault and François Pinault are the two richest men in France.

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 $US35 billion according to Forbes real-time data, while Arnault is worth $US92 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 $US94 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.

Read more: All the people and companies that have collectively pledged $US730 million to help rebuild Notre-Dame

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 $US113 million, from their holding group at 9:46 p.m. CEST.

Nine hours later, LVMH announced that Arnault and his family would be donating. And their pledged donation – at €200 million, or $US226 million – roundly doubled Pinault’s.

According to Business Insider’s Katie Warren, they are among a variety of businesspeople and companies that have collectively pledged $US730 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.

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