Egyptian businessman and self-made billionaire dies almost 26 years to the day after his son was killed in Paris car crash
Mohamed Al Fayed standing beside a memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales, and his son Dodi in the Harrods store. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian
Mohamed Al Fayed, the Egyptian-born businessman who owned the department store Harrods, has died aged 94.
His death comes almost 26 years to the day after the car crash in Paris that killed his eldest son, Dodi, and Diana, Princess of Wales, on 31 August 1997.
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 30 August 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.”
Fayed was born in Alexandria and was the son of a schoolteacher. In his homeland, he launched his own shipping business, before becoming an adviser to one of the world’s richest men, the Sultan of Brunei, in 1966.
When he arrived in the UK in the 1970s, he joined the board of the mining conglomerate Lonrho in 1975, but left nine months later. In 1979, with his brother Ali, he bought the Paris Ritz Hotel.
The Fayeds’ next target became Harrods and in 1985, the brothers succeeded in clinching a £615m takeover bid of the store in Knightsbridge.
He retained ownership of the store after the Frasers group entered public trading until 2010, when he sold it to Qatar Holding. The businessman also resurrected the satirical magazine Punch.
In 1997 he bought Fulham football club in west London for £6.25m and famously invited Michael Jackson to watch a game at Craven Cottage.
In 1999, Fayed agreed for the club’s manager, Kevin Keegan, to take over as the England national team manager. Fayed sold the club to billionaire businessman Shahid Khan in 2013.
Khan said on Friday evening: “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 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 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.”
The entrepreneur is known for his involvement in the cash-for-questions scandal in 1994, which saw MPs resign after failing to declare that they had been paid by the Egyptian to ask questions in parliament.
He approached the Guardian newspaper with the allegations in 1994, and the affair led to the resignation of MP Tim Smith as a Northern Ireland minister
Another MP, Neil Hamilton, was found to have accepted bribes, including a holiday at the Ritz and a free shopping spree at Harrods. Hamilton did not stand down, but lost his seat at the 1997 general election.
Fayed married the Finnish socialite and former model Heini Wathén in 1985, with whom he had four children: Jasmine, Karim, Camilla, and Omar.
The billionaire fought a long-running campaign after the deaths of Dodi and Diana, alleging that the crash was not an accident and that it had been orchestrated by the British security services.
However, French police concluded it was an accident, caused in part by speeding and by the high alcohol level in driver Henri Paul’s blood. In 2006, a Metropolitan police inquiry led by Lord Stevens found no evidence to back up claims that the security services were involved in any way.
Al Fayed became a friend of Diana through his sponsorship of charities and events attended by royal family members.