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Mohamed al-Fayed: Egyptian billionaire and former Harrods and Fulham FC owner dies

A prolific businessman, Fayed also became a prominent public figure in the UK, owning some of the country's best known assets
Mohamed al-Fayed died aged 94, his family said in a statement on Friday, 1 September 2023 (AFP/File Photo)

The Egyptian-born businessman Mohamed al-Fayed, whose son Dodi was killed in a car crash alongside Diana, Princess of Wales, has died aged 94.

His family said he "passed away peacefully of old age" on Wednesday.

Fayed was buried after Friday prayers at London Central Mosque in Regent's Park.

Best known for being the former owner of the Harrods department store, Fayed was also owner of Fulham football club in London, which was sold in 2013.

Fayed's death comes just a day after the 26th anniversary of his son's death on 31 August 1997 when he and his then-partner Diana, Princess of Wales sought to outrun paparazzi photographers on motorbikes in Paris.

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Fayed led a long campaign alleging that the British secret services were behind the accident. 

In 2005, Fayed erected a bronze statue of Dodi and Diana dancing in Harrods, above the phrase "innocent victims". The statue was removed and returned to the billionaire in 2018.

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Despite moving to the UK in the 1970s and building a business empire spanning the Middle East and his adopted country, Fayed was never given a British passport. 

His family said in a statement: "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."

He is survived by his second wife, Finnish former model Heidi Wathen, and their four children - Jasmine, Karim, Camilla and Omar.

Fayed, early beginnings 

Fayed was born in Alexandria in 1929, at a time when Egypt had become newly independent from British rule, but was still heavily influenced by the colonial power.

While he has given many, often false, accounts of the dynastic wealth of his ancestors, his father was most likely to have been either a teacher or school inspector.

Mohamed al-Fayed (C) cuddles singers Charlotte Church (R) and Filippa Giordano (L) among the teddy bears in the exclusive department store Harrods in Knightsbridge, London, 3 January 2001 (AFP)

Fayed married Samira Khashoggi, aged 18 at the time, in 1954. The following year, she gave birth to their only son Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Mena'em Fayed, better known as Dodi. The two divorced when Dodi was just four years old.

Among Samira's nephews, and Dodi's cousins, was MEE journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by Saudi agents in Istanbul in 2018.

Business empire

The 1952 Egyptian revolution ushered in the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the 1956 Suez Crisis - and allowed Fayed to buy a shipping business at a discount price in the late 50s.

The following decade, he relocated to the UK, from where the emerging magnate became an adviser to the Sultan of Brunei - then among the richest people in the world.

He also aided former Dubai ruler Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, helping to build up the infrastructure of the city and introduce British companies to it, earning large commissions as a go-between.

He later went on to buy a string of high profile assets: the Ritz hotel in Paris in 1979, department store Harrods in London in 1984 (which was sold to Qatar's sovereign wealth fund in 2010) and Fulham football club in 1997 (sold in 2013).

Billionaire Mohamed al-Fayed shows off a card in the form of an oversized British passport during a press conference in London on 13 November 1996 (Reuters)

Fayed married former Finnish model Heidi Wathen in 1985, with whom he has four children.

Fulham football club said that it was "incredibly saddened to learn" of his death.

"We owe Mohamed a debt of gratitude for what he did for our club, and our thoughts now are with his family and friends at this sombre time," the club said in a statement.

Fayed twice failed in his attempt to secure British citizenship, and a UK government report concluded that he had lied about his origin and his wealth.

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