The tragedy and the intrigue

Good Times, Bad Times: The Business Personalities Of The Year
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The Independent Online
Barely two months had passed since his son died in the Paris car crash that killed Princess Diana, when Mohamed al Fayed was back in the business news again, as one of the bitterest feuds in British commercial history flared up once more.

The ins and outs of Mr Fayed's stand off against former Lonrho chief executive Tiny Rowland are now the stuff of lore as much as current events. They date back to November 1984, when Mr Fayed bid pounds 615m for Harrods and its parent House of Fraser. Mr Rowland also wanted to buy Harrods and claimed the money for Mr Fayed's bid came from the Sultan of Brunei.

The charge was not proven and Mr Fayed's bid was approved by the government. Since then Mr Fayed and Mr Rowland have alternately dished the dirt on each other and publicly reconciled. In November Mr Rowland reopened the hostilities by complaining to police and the papers that his wife's safe deposit box at Harrods had been opened by store employees, and its contents pilfered.

In the 1980s Mr Fayed was a friend of the Conservative government, helping win the Sultan of Brunei's co-operation for supporting the beleaguered pound. In the 1990s, after his application for British citizenship was rejected, he became a foe of the Conservative government - supplying information crucial to breaking the cash-for-questions and Paris Ritz stories that sank the political careers of Neil Hamilton and Jonathan Aitken.

In February Mr Fayed scrapped plans to float Harrods. This could prove even more of a setback than it seemed at the time. Whatever happens in the other areas of his life, it is Harrods that provides the financial fuel to keep him going.

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