Billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, the father of Princess Diana’s late partner Dodi Al Fayed, has died at the age of 94.
The Egyptian businessman died on Wednesday, his family said, with his burial taking place on Friday at London Central Mosque, near Regent’s Park, after prayers.
The flamboyant and at times controversial tycoon was the owner of Hotel Ritz Paris, and previously owned Harrods department store and Fulham Football Club. His wealth was this year estimated to be $2 billion, ranking him 1,493 in the world.
In a statement released by Fulham FC, his family said: “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 on Wednesday, August 30, 2023.
“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.”
A statement from Fulham FC’s current owner and chairman Shahid Khan, who succeeded Mr Al Fayed, read. “On behalf of everyone at Fulham Football Club, I send my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mohamed Al Fayed upon the news of his passing at age 94.
“The story of Fulham cannot be told without a chapter on the positive impact of Mr Al Fayed as chairman. His legacy will be remembered for our promotion to the Premier League, a Europa League Final, and moments of magic by players and teams alike.
“I always enjoyed my time with Mr Al Fayed, who was wise, colourful and committed to Fulham, and I am forever grateful for his trust in me to succeed him as chairman in 2013. I join our supporters around the world in celebrating the memory of Mohamed Al Fayed, whose legacy will always be at the heart of our tradition at Fulham Football Club.”
Fulham Focus, a podcast hosted by the club’s fans, added: “Very sad to relate that reports from Egypt state that former Fulham owner & Chairman Mohamed Al Fayed has passed at the age of 94. He brought a lot of energy and drive to reviving Fulham’s fortunes and the club and fans owe him a great deal. Our condolences to his family.”
Mr Al-Fayed’s son, Dodi Al Fayed, was famously the partner of Diana, Princess of Wales. The pair died following a car crash in Paris in August 1997, the anniversary of which was marked yesterday. Mr Al Fayed repeatedly claimed the pair were murdered in a plot by the British establishment.
Diana, who divorced the then-Prince Charles in 1996 after years of separation, first began dating Dodi Al Fayed, an Egyptian filmmaker, in July 1997.
Dodi Al Fayed reportedly first met the Princess of Wales in 1986 at a polo match against Prince Charles at Windsor, but it wasn’t until 11 years later that the pair became close – when his father invited Diana and her children to be his guests in St Tropez.
Diana, who was aged 36 at the time, began spending more time with Mr Al Fayed, with photos of the pair kissing making headlines around the world on 10 August 1997, after the pictures were reportedly sold for more than £1m.
The billionaire’s relationship with the royal family was recently depicted in season five of The Crown, where Mr Al Fayed, played by Salim Daw, was seen getting to know Diana.
He was somewhat fascinated by the royal family and later went on to buy and restore the former home of Edward VIII and his wife Wallis Simpson, which he later renamed “Villa Windsor”, at a cost of $12 million (£10.4 million). At the time of his death, Mr Al Fayed still owned Villa Windsor but it was not open to the public.
Born in Roshdy, Alexandria, Egypt in 1929, Mr Al Fayed married Saudi Arabian journalist Samira Khashoggi in 1954, working for her brother Adnan Khashoggi.
He then launched a shipping company in Egypt, with their son, Dodi, born a year later.
He moved to London in the Sixties, before he met the former ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum who enlisted him to help build up the Emirati city.
Mr Al Fayed introduced serval British companies to the city and became a financial advisor to the Sultan of Brunei Omar Ali Saifuddien III, in 1966.
He bought The Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1979 and was the owner of Fulham FC between 1997 and 2013.
In 1984, he battled for control of the House of Fraser group, which included its flagship store Harrods alongside business tycoon “Tiny” Rowland. Alongside his brother, Mr Al Fayed bought a 30 per cent stake in House of Fraser in 1984, taking over Harrods for £615 million a year later.
The battle began a feud with Mr Rowland, with a Department of Trade and Industry report in 1990 concluding that the Al Fayeds had lied about both their background and wealth during the deal.
The conflict with Mr Rowland ended in 1993 with a deal over Harrods food hall, though it likely contributed to Mr Al-Fayed being refused British citizenship – a rejection that caused him much anguish.
“Why won’t they give me a passport?”, Mr Al-Fayed said at the time, the BBC reports. “I own Harrods and employ thousands of people in this country.”
In 1994, his controversy went further when he was at the centre of the “cash for questions” scandal that embroiled Westminster. He claimed that he paid Tory MPs Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith thousands to illegally table questions in the House of Commons in his interests.
Mr Smith stepped down in 1997 after apologising, but Mr Hamilton later sued Mr Al Fayed for libel. However, he filed for bankruptcy after losing, having ended up with a seven-figure bill for legal fees.
In 2010, Mr Al Fayed sold Harrods to the Qatari royal family for a reported £1.5 billion.
Mr Al Fayed had five children, with the eldest being Dodi, who he shared with his first wife. He went on to have four children with his second wife, Heini Al Fayed: Camilla, Omar, Jasmine and Karim.
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