Pierre Bergé (1930–2017), pictured in 2012, has died aged 86. Photo by Matthieu Riegler, via Wikimedia Commons.

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The philanthropist had a long-term personal and business relationship with the famous fashion designer Yves St Laurent, who died in 2008.

Bergé, who ran his own auction firm Pierre Bergé and Associates, was one of the most highly regarded businessman within French cultural society.

Following a long illness, he died in his sleep at his home in Saint-Remy-de-Provence.

In a joint statement, the Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent and the Fondation Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech announced his death with “immense sadness”.

"True prince"

Former French culture minister Jack Lang said Bergé was a “true prince of the arts and culture”.

As the companion of Saint Laurent, he founded the Yves Saint Laurent couture house in 1961, and directed the business until 2002.

With Saint Laurent he assembled a significant private art collection, which was sold at auction in 2009 following the death of Saint Laurent, and also was an avid rare book collector.

In 1994, he founded AIDS research and support charity Sidaction and has been praised for his charity work fighting social inequality.

In the 1960s the couple “fell in love” with Morocco and saved the 12-acre botanical garden, Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech.

This autumn Bergé had been due to inaugurate two museums in Paris and Marrakech, dedicated to the work of Yves Saint Laurent.