Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. - A fire broke out at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said.Images posted on social media showed flames and huge clouds of smoke billowing above the roof of the gothic cathedral, the most visited historic monument in Europe.
PATRICK ANIDJAR/AFP/Getty Images

  • The French billionaires and companies that pledged millions toward the restoration of Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral have not written cheques yet, church and business officials told the Associated Press on Friday.
  • Most of the donations used to fund the clean-up work from the April 15 fire have come from Americans.
  • Representatives for the billionaires said they are waiting to see the plans for the restoration before sending the money.
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When a fire devastated Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris two months ago, French billionaires jumped to offer millions in donations to restore the church to its former glory.

But so far, they haven't followed through on their promise that collectively amounts to about $1 billion, according to a new Associated Press report.

Instead, church and business officials told the AP that the vast majority of the funds paying for the clean-up right now are coming from American citizens who donated to the church's Friends of Notre Dame charity.

See also: Emmanuel Macron announced plans to rebuild Notre-Dame in 5 years, but it could take much longer

"Americans are very generous toward Notre Dame and the monument is very loved in America. Six out of our 11 board members are residents in the US," charity President Andre Picaud told the AP.

That charity is currently in the process of issuing its first cheque to the church, in the amount of $4 million. It will go toward the salaries of the up to 150 workers who have been employed by the church since the April 15 fire.

"The big donors haven't paid. Not a cent," Andre Finot, senior press official at Notre Dame, told the AP. "They want to know what exactly their money is being spent on and if they agree to it before they hand it over, and not just to pay employees' salaries."

What billionaires pledged funds, and why they haven't sent them yet

Among the French billionaires to pledge funds to the church in the immediate aftermath of the fire was François Pinault, whose holding company owns auction house Christie's and several luxury brands like Saint Laurent and Balenciaga. Pinault pledged €100 million.

That amount was matched by Patrick Pouyanne, the CEO of French energy company Total. Bernard Arnault, the CEO of luxury conglomerate LVMH, one-upped them with a promise of €200 million. The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, the charity of L'Oréal heiress Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, pledged the same amount.

When contacted by the AP about their failure to follow through on these donations, the above said they still intended to fund the church's renovation but hadn't yet for various reasons.

A spokesman for the Pinault Collection blamed the issue on a delay in contracts.

LVMH and the Arnault family issued a statement saying that they were in the process of signing an agreement and that "payments will be made as the work progresses."

The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation said it wants to make sure that their donations benefit the charity's goal of supporting "craftsmanship in art", the AP reported, before they make a payment.

Total said it will pay its donation through the Heritage Foundation, and the charity's director, Celia Verot, told the AP that they are waiting to see what the plans are for the restoration.

Read the full story from the AP »

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