French billionaire gives $109m to rebuild Notre Dame

Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of French luxury group Kering (L), his father Francois Pinault (R), and Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit (C), sign an agreement to raise money for the rebuild of Notre-Dame cathedral, in Paris. (AP)
Updated 01 October 2019

French billionaire gives $109m to rebuild Notre Dame

  • The Pinaults signed the donation agreement at the Archdiocese of Paris
  • Arnault finalized his donation agreement with the Notre Dame Foundation last week

PARIS: French billionaire Francois Pinault and son Francois-Henri Pinault have officially signed documents setting aside 100 million euros ($109 million) toward rebuilding Notre Dame Cathedral, following months of delay that left officials largely reliant on small charity donations to fund the first phase of repairs.
Surrounded by portraits of former cardinals, the Pinaults signed the donation agreement at the Archdiocese of Paris Tuesday. The money will give the Notre Dame Foundation a much-awaited financial boost as authorities draw up plans for the cathedral’s reconstruction, following the devastating fire on April 15.
Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit says “everyone gives what he can according to his needs, but the big donors give us breathing room.”
Francois Pinault, whose international luxury group Kering owns Gucci and Saint Laurent, pledged the money directly after the fire. His rival, French billionaire Bernard Arnault of luxury goods group LVMH, soon followed suit, pledging 200 million euros ($218 million). The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation of the L’Oreal fortune also promised 200 million euros.
Arnault finalized his donation agreement with the Notre Dame Foundation last week.
Francois Pinault said that they hoped announcing their donation publicly would motivate others to chip in as well.
“It is certainly vulgar to make a gesture and then promote it, but the idea was to generate others,” he said.
A groundswell of support quickly materialized in the hours and days after the blaze ravaged the monument.
“It came spontaneously during that evening, when we didn’t yet know whether the cathedral could be saved,” Aupetit said of the Pinault family’s pledge. “It launched a movement that is still ongoing, because we still have 140 donations a week.”
The foundation received 36 million euros ($39 million) from 46,000 individuals, 60 businesses and 29 municipalities between April 15 and the end of September, according to a statement. Aupetit said he’s received donations as small as one euro.
But big donations, like the Pinaults’, have taken months to materialize. Meanwhile, the foundation has relied mainly on small, individual donors from France and the US to pay the salaries of workers still laboring to clean up the site and contain the damage from the blaze.
Dimitri Besse, a public relations representative for the Pinault family, noted that the Pinaults donated more than 10 million euros in emergency funds in June at the request of the Notre Dame Foundation.
Aupetit said authorities won’t know the total duration and cost of the project until the spring. President Emmanuel Macron has said he hopes to complete the restoration within five years, but some experts say that timeline is overly ambitious.
For now, Aupetit said, workers remain focused on clean-up and safety measures, like removing scaffolding that melted in the fire. Simply preserving the damaged building in its current state costs 31 million euros ($33.8 million), he said.


World’s oldest man dies in Japan at 112

Updated 25 February 2020

World’s oldest man dies in Japan at 112

  • Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata, north of Tokyo, died on Sunday at his nursing home
  • The news came less than two weeks after Watanabe was officially recognized by Guinness World Records

TOKYO: A Japanese man recently named the world’s oldest living male has died aged 112, a local official said Tuesday.

Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata, north of Tokyo, died on Sunday at his nursing home in the same prefecture, the official said.

The news came less than two weeks after he was officially recognized by Guinness World Records.

Watanabe, who had five children, said the secret to longevity was to “not get angry and keep a smile on your face.”

He admitted a penchant for sweets such as custard pudding and ice cream.

The oldest man in Japan is now Issaku Tomoe, who is 110 years old, according to Jiji Press, although it was not clear if Tomoe holds the title globally.

The oldest living person is also Japanese, Kane Tanaka, a 117-year-old woman.

Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectancies and has been home to several people recognized as among the oldest humans to have ever lived.

They include Jiroemon Kimura, the longest-living man on record, who died soon after his 116th birthday in June 2013.

The oldest verified person — Jeanne Louise Calment of France — died in 1997 at the age of 122, according to Guinness.