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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed dies at 94

Self-made Egyptian billionaire and former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, known for promoting discredited conspiracy theories regarding Princess Diana’s death, has passed away at 94.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Al Fayed initially sold fizzy drinks and worked as a sewing-machine salesman before amassing his family’s fortune in real estate, shipping, and construction across the Middle East and Europe. He owned iconic establishments like Harrods, Fulham, and the Ritz hotel in Paris.

Al Fayed was a controversial figure, feuding with the British government over citizenship and frequently threatening to move to France, where he received the Legion of Honour.

He spent a decade trying to prove that Princess Diana and his son, Dodi, were murdered in the 1997 car crash in Paris, making unsupported claims involving the British royal family.

Al Fayed’s passing occurred a day before the 26th anniversary of Diana and Dodi’s death. His family announced his peaceful passing due to old age. Despite his self-invented persona and controversial actions, Al Fayed played a significant role in key moments of British history, such as his contentious takeover of Harrods in 1985 and his involvement in the “cash-for-questions” scandal that impacted UK politics.

His ownership of Harrods included eccentricities like wanting to be mummified in a golden sarcophagus atop the store’s roof. He also erected a kitsch memorial statue of Diana and Dodi at Harrods and a sequinned statue of Michael Jackson at Fulham FC, sparking controversy.

Al Fayed’s past remained enigmatic, including discrepancies about his birthdate. He became a UK resident in 1974 and purchased Harrods in 1985, hoping it would lead to acceptance in British society. However, it resulted in prolonged disputes and a Department of Trade inquiry that questioned his background and finances.

After 25 years of ownership, Al Fayed sold Harrods to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund in 2010. His quest for British citizenship was denied in 1995, with Al Fayed citing racism as the reason he remained on society’s fringes.

His 1994 disclosure of making gifts and payments to politicians for parliamentary questions exposed the “cash-for-questions” scandal and played a role in the Conservative Party’s election loss to Tony Blair’s Labour Party in 1997.

During the summer of 1997, Al Fayed’s son, Dodi, entered a high-profile relationship with Princess Diana. The couple tragically died in a car crash in Paris, leading Al Fayed to invest millions in legal battles to ensure an inquest.

Although he accused various parties, including the royal family, Blair, and ambulance drivers, the inquest concluded that their chauffeur’s driving caused their deaths. Al Fayed accepted the verdict and abandoned efforts to prove foul play, leaving matters to divine justice.

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