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Billionaire shipping clan gives ‘exceptional’ donation to Louvre

FRANCE’S billionaire Saade family has made a major donation to the Louvre museum through its shipping line, a further step by the clan to raise its business and philanthropic profile.

The “pivotal” backing will allow the country’s biggest art repository to move ahead with a plan for a new department dedicated to Byzantine and Christian art of the Orient, according to a statement released on Tuesday. Neither the company the family controls, container line CMA CGM SA, nor the museum would specify the size of the donation, saying only that it is “exceptional” enough to support creating a new department.

The project is for a collection of 20,000 objects that the Louvre already owns or is in the process of acquiring to be displayed on a rotating basis in a series of rooms starting in 2027, according to a museum spokesperson.

The donation reflects the family’s deep Mediterranean roots, said Tanya Saade Zeenny, daughter of the company’s late founder, Jacques. Her father immigrated to France from war-torn Lebanon and started the line in 1978 in Marseille with one leased vessel.

Her brother, Rodolphe Saade, has led closely held CMA CGM through an aggressive expansion plan in recent years, raising the group’s public profile. As chief executive officer, he’s regularly been part of the business delegations accompanying President Emmanuel Macron on foreign trips or when heads of state visit France.

On the cultural front, the company has sponsored work in France such as the restoration of the Apollo basin in the gardens of the Versailles Palace and the renovation of the Musee National de la Marine.

The Saade family is worth about $22 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. — Bloomberg

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