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Donations Flood In to Rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral -- 2nd Update

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04/16/2019 | 12:14pm EDT

By Cristina Roca and Denise Roland

France's business elite, including two of the country's richest men, have pledged hundreds of millions of euros to restore Notre Dame cathedral, kicking off what looks to be a flood of money from around the world.

Bernard Arnault, who heads LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, said his family and the luxury-goods company it controls would donate EUR200 million ($226 million) to the fund dedicated to reconstructing Notre Dame. LVMH also offered the skills of "all of its teams -- including creative, architectural and financial specialists" to help with the reconstruction and fundraising.

François-Henri Pinault, who controls rival fashion group Kering SA, said his family would donate EUR100 million. Kering's luxury brands include Gucci and Alexander McQueen.

L'Oréal SA said the company, the Bettencourt Meyers family and the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation would donate EUR200 million in total.

French oil giant Total SA will donate EUR100 million, according to a tweet by its chairman and chief executive, Patrick Pouyanné.

Among other wealthy donors are Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, head of French investment firm Fimalac SA, who offered EUR10 million. Brothers Martin and Olivier Bouygues, who head industrial conglomerate Bouygues SA, have also pledged EUR10 million. In the U.S., private-equity tycoon Henry Kravis and his wife, Marie-Josée Kravis, offered $10 million.

French officials are still assessing the damage to the cathedral and to its valuable collection of art and religious relics. Some paintings and objects were removed for safety. It was unclear how much it would cost or how long the reconstruction would take.

Sylvain Charlois, chief executive of oak grower Charlois Groupe, told the FranceInfo radio station that the reconstruction would take years or even decades and require millions of cubic meters of wood. He offered to provide wood, saying he would start sourcing the best oak trees and setting aside the best specimens.

Outdoor advertising giant JCDecaux SA pledged EUR10 million to the effort, and Crédit Agricole SA said it would contribute EUR5 million. Financial consulting firm Capgemini SE said it would give EUR1 million. Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook said on Twitter that the company would donate to the rebuilding efforts.

Other companies are offering donations in kind. Construction company Vinci SA said that all French building firms should join forces to rebuild the church.

"The partial destruction of Notre Dame is an unqualified tragedy," Vinci said. "The 13th century wooden beams holding up the roof will never be replaced. But the part of Notre Dame that has survived the fire must be safeguarded."

Bouygues' construction arm said it would participate in the restoration project, while Air France-KLM SA said it would offer free transport to officials involved in the reconstruction.

Public money has also been pledged. The city of Paris said it would give EUR50 million. The regional government said it would provide EUR10 million.

"In 2024, Paris will host the world for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We need to do everything we can so that the Notre Dame cathedral is returned to all its splendor for this occasion," said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Other fundraising efforts to bring in donations from the public are under way. The French Heritage Foundation, or Fondation du Patrimoine, a private group that supports the preservation of historic structures, is raising funds on its website. Pledges had topped EUR3.7 million by Tuesday afternoon.

Smaller crowdfunding drives were also underfoot. A group called Catholic Connect that said it is based in Texas had raised more than $6,000 by Tuesday afternoon on GoFundMe.

Different forms of fundraising often play a role in the repair of historic buildings. In the U.K., Windsor Castle required a major restoration after a 1992 fire destroyed or damaged more than 100 rooms, or about one-fifth the total area of the building. The five-year restoration project cost GBP37 million ($48 million), with 70% of the funds raised by opening parts of Buckingham Palace to visitors in the summer.

Write to Denise Roland at Denise.Roland@wsj.com

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