After the world was stunned by the tragic fire that devastated Notre Dame on Monday, one French billionaire is stepping up to save the historic cathedral. Husband to Salma Hayek and dad to 11-year-old Valentina, Francois-Henri Pinault, just pledged over $100 million to rebuild the catastrophic damage caused by the flames. But is he really doing this out of the goodness of his heart?
“My father [François Pinault] and I have decided to release as of now from the funds of Artemis a sum of 100 million euros to participate in the effort that will be necessary for the complete reconstruction of Notre Dame,” Pinault said in a statement tweeted by French newspaper Le Figaro on Monday night.
The 56-year-old fashion mogul, along with being president of Groupe Artemis, his family’s investment firm from which he’ll be taking the Notre Dame donation funds, is also the owner of the Gucci Group, which includes luxury brands like Gucci, Alexander McQueen, and Yves St. Laurent.
“This tragedy is striking all the French people, and beyond that, all those attached to spiritual values,” Pinault told CNN, adding, “Faced with this tragedy, everyone wishes to give life back to this jewel of our heritage as soon as possible.”
And he and wife Hayek have a special connection to Paris. Not only do they have a home there but the couple was also married at the City Hall in the Sixth Arrondissement in February 2009.
Along with her husband’s hefty donation, Hayek, 52, shared her own support on Instagram with a heartfelt post that read, “As many others, I’m in deep shock and sadness to witness the beauty of Notre-Dame turn into smoke. I love you Paris.”
Pinault isn’t the only billionaire contributing to the cause, either. After he pledged his donation, Bernard Arnault announced that he too would be pitching in money—$200 million euros to be exact. The CEO of LVMH Group, which owns brands like Louis Vuitton and Givenchy, tweeted, “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.”
"Mon père (François Pinault) et moi même avons décidé de débloquer dès à présent sur les fonds d'Artemis une somme de 100 millions d'euros pour participer à l'effort qui sera nécessaire à la reconstruction complète de Notre Dame", écrit François-Henri Pinault
— William Plummer (@PlummerWilliam) April 15, 2019
However, as sources have pointed out on Twitter, the Pinault family is apparently seeking a huge tax break (90 percent!) to off-set their donation to help rebuild the famous cathedral.
There it is. An associate of the Pinaults has asked for a 90 percent tax deduction on gifts to the Notre Dame repair. Which could mean the public footing much of the bill, while “philanthropists” get credit. https://t.co/NJqQw0A8mm
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) April 16, 2019
If this turns out to be true, that could mean that the people who are actually paying for the rescue of Notre Dame aren’t “heroic” billionaires, but instead, taxpaying citizens.