Egyptian billionaire businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed died last Wednesday, August 30, as reported 48 hours later in a statement by his family. “He enjoyed a long and full retirement with his loved ones. The family asks that his privacy be respected at this time,” the text says. Al-Fayed, who died at the age of 94, retired from public life in the last decade, and lived in his mansion in Surrey (United Kingdom) with his Finnish wife, Heini.
The businessman, owner for a time of the legendary London department store Harrods, as well as the Fulham FC football club, was a prominent protagonist in British economic and political life and saw how his son, Dodi, occupied the front page of the newspapers. sensational tabloids as a result of his romance with Diana Spencer, Lady Di, by then already divorced from Charles of England. Both died in a car accident in Paris, on August 31, 1997, during a chase in which they were fleeing paparazzi through the streets of the French capital.
The death of his son, and of Diana herself, left Mohamed Al-Fayed devastated, who began to fuel conspiracy theories to explain the accident, and blamed what happened on the British royal house – specifically, Felipe de Edinburgh—, to the British and French secret services and even to the American CIA.
Born in Alexandria in January 1929, the son of a school teacher, in 1954 he married Samira Khashoggi, the sister of the Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, who died in June 2017. As a result of that marriage, which barely lasted two years, It was Mohamed Abdel Mena Fayed, better known by his diminutive of Dodi.
For a few years the businessman started a maritime transport company, but true power and relevance began to reach him in the sixties, when he became personal advisor to one of the richest men in the world, the sultan. from Brunei. In the seventies, Al Fayed moved to England (the “Al” of his surname, legend has it, incorporated him in that country to give more rank to his name) and never moved from there. . Welcomed by his money but never fully accepted by the UK establishment, he was denied British nationality on two occasions – in 1994 and 1999.
In addition to taking over the ownership of the Harrods department store, he bought the Ritz hotel in Paris, the Parisian villa where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived in exile for years (King Edward VIII, who abdicated in favor of his brother George VI, and his wife, the divorced American Wallis Simpson), which was in a serious state of abandonment, and a farm in Scotland of more than 26,000 hectares.
In 1985 he married the Finnish actress and model Heini Wathen, with whom he had four children.
The purchase of Harrods, a symbol of British pride, was surrounded by controversy from the beginning. Al-Fayed, who had worked in his early British years for the mining conglomerate Lonrho, managed to defeat this company in the bid for House of Fraser, the parent company that owns the department store. For a total of 842 million euros, as reported at the time, the Egyptian businessman acquired more than 100 establishments throughout the United Kingdom. Roland Tiny Rowland, the British businessman at the head of Lonrho, who had been a friend and confidant of Al-Fayed for a time, accused him of having lied to the British Government and of having used, to defeat his competitor, money from the Sultan of Brunei. A report by the UK Department of Trade and Industry concluded that Al-Fayed had not been truthful about his fortune, business and financial interests, but was allowed to retain ownership of Harrods, as he did for 25 years. until the sale in 2010 to Qatar Holdings.
Friendship with Diana
Mohamed Al-Fayed and Lady Di, in Saint-Tropez (France), in July 1997.No credit ( / Cordon Press / Cordon Press)
The Egyptian businessman forged a friendly relationship with Lady Di through his philanthropic participation in many of the charity events sponsored by the British royal house. In the summer of 1997, Al-Fayed invited Diana and her two sons William and Harry to spend a few days on his yacht Jonikal, off the coast of southern France. There, Lady Di strengthened her relationship with the magnate’s son, Dodi, who was dedicated to producing films and had obtained her first and only success 16 years earlier with the film Chariots of Fire.
Al-Fayed was involved in the scandal called “money in exchange for questions” in 1994. Deputies of the British Parliament introduced, in the control and interpellation sessions to the Government, specific questions on matters of interest from businessmen willing to pay them in exchange. an amount of money. The Egyptian was one of those who managed to place his private business affairs in the debates of the House of Commons.
In November 2022, Forbes magazine estimated Al-Fayed’s fortune at around €2.2 billion.
#Mohamed #AlFayed #Egyptian #businessman #owned #Harrods #department #store #dies