Mohamed Al Fayed, the Egyptian businessman and former owner of the world famous Harrods department store, as well as Fulham Football Club, has passed away at the age of 94.
His family announced that he “passed away peacefully of old age” on Wednesday 30 August, just before the 26th anniversary of his son Dodi’s death in a Paris underpass alongside Princess Diana, on 31 August 1997.
It is understood that he was buried after prayers at London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park, on 1 September.
His family said in a statement: “Mrs Mohamed Al Fayed, her children and grandchildren wish to confirm that her beloved husband, their father and their grandfather, Mohamed, has passed away peacefully of old age. He enjoyed a long and fulfilled retirement surrounded by his loved ones. The family have asked for their privacy to be respected at this time.”
The businessman was born in Alexandria, Egypt, but in keeping with his controversial life, even his date of birth was always a subject of much conjecture. He always insisted it was January 1933, always being reluctant to give a precise date, but when he took part in a Department of Trade inquiry it was officially recorded as 27 January 1929.
Marriage quickly leads to wealth
His business life began with him peddling bottles of fizzy drinks on the tough streets, but his luck changed after meeting and then marrying the sister of the Saudi millionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, back in the 1950’s.
That opened doors which gave him access to influential circles both at home and crucially in London too. His quickly became a very wealthy man, founding his own shipping company in his home country, and then becoming the financial adviser to the mega-rich Sultan of Brunei.
He fell in love with the UK, moving there in 1974 and adding the “Al” part to his name. Then five years later, in company with his brother Ali, he bought the Ritz Hotel in Paris, followed six years later, by his most famous purchase – Harrods.
It brought about problems with The Department of Trade and Industry, as issues over gaining British citizenship began – and were never sorted – leading to bitterness against his adopted country.
Football club purchase
Among his other business dealings were a 50,000-acre estate in Scotland which he developed into a tourist attraction, and his ownership of Fulham Football Club which he bought in 1997 for £6.25m.
He even erected a larger-than-life, sequinned statue of Michael Jackson outside the home ground at Craven Cottage, even though the singer only attended one match. He sparked outrage with the fan-base when he reacted to complaints by saying: “If some stupid fans don’t understand or appreciate such a gift, they can go to hell.”
Huge fall-out with the British Royals
He initially was a huge supporter of the Royal Family, but everything changed in 1997 when his son Dodi died, alongside Princess Diana, in a car smash in Paris. He became convinced it was orchestrated by the British security services on the orders of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, to stop her marrying a Muslim and having a child with him.
He fought a long campaign alleging that they were murdered, blaming what he called the “establishment”. However, French and British reports concluded it was an accident, caused in part by speeding and by the high alcohol level in driver Henri Paul’s blood.
His remarks were widely condemned at an official enquiry and in summing up the coroner said that “the conspiracy theory” advanced by Mr Al Fayad had been minutely examined and shown to be without any substance what so ever.”
Billionaire leaves wife and four children
He sold Harrods in 2010 to Qatar Holdings for £1.5bn, although nearly half of the purchase price was used to clear the spiralling company’s debts. The Sunday Times Rich List 2021 reported Al Fayed and his family were worth around £1.7bn.
He is survived by his second wife, Finnish former model Heidi Wathen, and their four children – Jasmine, Karim, Camilla and Omar.