Mohamed al Fayed, the former Harrods owner whose son Dodi was killed along with Princess Diana in a car crash, has died aged 94. His life, told by the BBC, begins in Egypt, where he was born on 27 January 1929. Mohamed al Fayed built a commercial empire in the Middle East before moving to the United Kingdom in the 1970s, without ever managing to realize his ambition of obtaining a passport for your adopted country.
After his eldest son Dodi died in a car accident with Princess Diana, Al Fayed spent years wondering about the circumstances of that tragedy. For the past decade, Al Fayed had largely stayed out of the public limelight, living in his Surrey mansion with his wife Heini. In a statement released this evening, her family said that: “Mrs Mohamed al Fayed, her children and her grandchildren wish to confirm that her beloved husband, their father and their grandfather, Mohamed, passed away peacefully on old age Wednesday 30 August 2023. He enjoyed a long and satisfying retirement surrounded by his loved ones.”
Fulham Football Club, which Fayed owned in the 1990s, said tonight it was “incredibly saddened” by his death. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Mohammed for what he has done for our club and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time,” she said in a statement. His successor at the club, Shahid Khan, expressed his condolences in a tribute on the club’s website, “Fulham’s story cannot be told without a chapter dedicated to the positive impact of Mr Al Fayed as president,” he stated . “His legacy will be remembered for promotion to the Premier League, for the Europa League final and for the moments of magic experienced by players and teams.”
Al Fayed went from selling fizzy drinks on the streets of his native Alexandria to becoming a big name in the business world. The turning point came after meeting his first wife, Samira Khashoggi, sister of Saudi millionaire Adnan Khashoggi, who he hired in his import business in Saudi Arabia. The marriage lasted just two years but the shipping company did not stop his rise and in 1966 al Fayed became an advisor to one of the richest men in the world, the Sultan of Brunei. In 1974 he moved to Great Britain. Five years later he bought the Ritz hotel in Paris with his brother Ali for 20 million pounds. In 1985 he took over Harrods for £615m, after a fierce bidding war with the mining group Lonrho. Under his ownership, Fulham FC rose from the third tier to the Premier League.
He was a great benefactor. He has donated large sums of money to charities including Great Ormond Street Hospital. In 1987 he established the Al Fayed Charitable Foundation to improve the lives of poor and very sick young people. It was from his Ritz hotel in Paris that his son Dodi, a film producer, and his then partner Diana, Princess of Wales, left before the car accident that killed them both in 1997.
Al Fayed twice failed to gain British citizenship. On the second occasion, in 1995, enraged by her rejection, he told the press that he had paid two Conservative ministers, Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith, to ask questions in the House of Commons about his interests. Both left the government and Hamilton, who denied the allegations, also lost a defamation case against Al Fayed. In 2010, Al Fayed sold Harrods to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. Nearly half of the purchase price was used to pay off the company’s debts.