Mohamed al-Fayed, tycoon whose son Dodi died with Princess Diana, dies at XX


Mohamed al-Fayed, an Egyptian-born tycoon and self-described unwelcome outsider in England who shared grief with British royalty for his son Dodi and Princess Diana after their temporary romance led to tragedy, died Aug. 30. He was 94.

His dying was reported by the Related Press, citing a household assertion issued by the Fulham Soccer Membership. Mr. Fayed beforehand owned the crew. No additional particulars have been instantly out there.

Mr. Fayed, whose holdings included London landmarks akin to Harrods division retailer, turned greatest recognized to the world via the prism of collective sorrow after the 1997 dying of Diana in a high-speed automotive crash in Paris. In his adopted homeland of Britain, nonetheless, Mr. Fayed’s life and legacy was way more complicated.

Admirers noticed him as an inspirational empire-builder with achievements akin to serving to bankroll the Oscar-winning 1981 historic drama “Chariots of Fireplace” and relaunching the venerable humor journal Punch in 1996 for a last-gasp, six-year run. Critics, in the meantime, pressed claims — by no means proved — that Mr. Fayed was one thing of a flimflam man in a bespoke swimsuit and ascot, embellishing his fortune and background.

In his later years, Mr. Fayed turned more and more remoted over his self-fueled obsession {that a} vast conspiracy led to the automotive crash that killed Dodi, Diana and their driver shortly after they left the Fayed-owned Resort Ritz within the Place Vendome.

The regular hum of scandals and quarrels was extensively seen as undercutting Mr. Fayed’s quest to achieve British citizenship. But Mr. Fayed additionally represented an inescapable reality of British life: the flood of Arab cash into London because the Sixties, and the way the deep-pocket newcomers influenced the capital’s life and economic system.

Mr. Fayed, whose internet price in 2022 Forbes estimated at $2 billion, took particular pleasure in tweaking haughty sensibilities.

Princess Diana’s life and legacy

After buying Harrods within the mid-Eighties, Mr. Fayed shortly shook up an ossified retail tradition. Mr. Fayed sought more-edgy manufacturers and opened an “Egyptian room” touting mini-pyramids and sphinxes. Some commentators decried the “bazaar” environment invading the greater than 150-year-old grand dame of London shops.

Mr. Fayed doubled down, saying (with wryness worthy of Punch’s best satire) that he wished to be mummified and entombed inside Harrods like a pharaoh.

When Mr. Fayed owned London’s Fulham soccer membership, he shocked the sports activities institution in 2011 by erecting a 7½-foot statue of his late pal Michael Jackson exterior the stadium. Mr. Fayed claimed that the singer was a fan of the crew, though he was reported to have made solely a single look at a recreation as a visitor of the proprietor. The statue was eliminated when Mr. Fayed bought the membership in 2013.

He as soon as quipped to a British tabloid that he deliberate to clone himself 2,000 instances, later explaining with a smile, “I simply wished to upset the British institution.”

The businessman’s circle of acquaintances and contacts was eclectic and expansive: glitterati of all stripes, pro-business politicos together with then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, potentates such because the sultan of Brunei, and the arms service provider Adnan Khashoggi. Mr. Fayed’s two-year marriage with Khashoggi’s sister, Samira, produced a baby, Emad, recognized to all as Dodi, in 1955.

“Britain is all the time stated to be a nation of shopkeepers, and an Egyptian proved the king of shopkeepers. . . . He was an excellent showman,” Robert Lacey, a distinguished biographer of British royalty, advised The Washington Put up in 2016.

However Mr. Fayed additionally stewed over what he perceived as makes an attempt by Britain’s highly effective cliques to derail his ambitions.

Mr. Fayed “felt ceaselessly snubbed,” Lacey stated.

He battled for years — and finally prevailed — towards claims by a rival for Harrods that Mr. Fayed wildly inflated his private funds and fabricated tales about his ancestors as influential Egyptian cotton sellers and shipbuilders. An investigative panel in 1989 sided with the fabulist allegations — saying Mr. Fayed got here from “respectable however humble origins” — however let stand the $1.05 billion sale. In 2010, Harrods was sold for about $2.25 billion to Qatar’s state-run funding arm after what Mr. Fayed described as annoyance at British paperwork and a want to decelerate his tempo of labor.

At Diana’s funeral, Mr. Fayed was inside Westminster Abbey however rows away from the royal household. His son was buried earlier exterior London.

His full break with the royals got here quickly after, when he publicly accused members akin to Prince Philip, the queen’s husband, of being a part of an anti-Diana cabal. Buckingham Palace described Mr. Fayed as unhinged — and he turned from lovable rogue to a punchline within the eyes of many Britons.

Mr. Fayed asserted the automotive wreck in Paris stemmed from a far-reaching plot, going as excessive as British intelligence and Buckingham Palace. An inquest in 2008 concluded that reckless driving by chauffeur Henri Paul and the pursuit of paparazzi mixed to trigger the crash.

Mr. Fayed didn’t waver. He sunk $4 million right into a 2011 documentary, “Unlawful Killing,” constructed across the Diana-was-murdered allegations. The movie was saved from widespread launch after its producers have been unable to acquire insurance coverage towards doable libel costs.

Via all of it, Mr. Fayed made repeated purposes for British citizenship, which have been denied. The precise causes have been by no means made public, however commentators say they in all probability included his public feuds and finger-pointing.

Mohamed Abdel Moneim al-Fayed was born in Alexandria, Egypt, on Jan. 27, 1929, in line with British commerce information. Different sources, together with “Who’s Who,” reported that the 12 months was 1933. He by no means publicly clarified the date.

An analogous murkiness shrouded his adolescence. Regardless of his claims of hailing from highly effective service provider inventory, the extra prosaic — however extra accepted — model was that he grew up residing throughout the technique of his father’s instructor wage. By his early 20s, Mr. Fayed was hanging out on his personal, reportedly peddling Singer stitching machines and Coca-Cola.

Round that point, he met the Saudi-born Khashoggi. Mr. Fayed struck up a romance with Khashoggi’s sister, resulting in marriage in 1954. It didn’t final, however Mr. Fayed was now blood-linked to the Khashoggi clan by their son Dodi. It was a key calling card into the enterprise world past Egypt.

Mr. Fayed used Khashoggi-arranged introductions for profitable investments within the United Arab Emirates within the early Sixties and to safe building contracts in Haiti beneath the dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

By the mid-Sixties, Mr. Fayed and his two youthful brothers had relocated to England to supervise their rising oil, building and delivery conglomerate. Mr. Fayed was significantly determined for acceptance in his new European life.

How Diana hit it off with the queen — and how it all came crashing down

In 1979, Mr. Fayed introduced a fading Parisian gem, the Ritz, and led a serious renovation. Not lengthy after, he kicked in $3 million for “Chariots of Fireplace” (Dodi was listed as govt producer), the true story of a gaggle of British runners making ready for the 1924 Olympics. One of many principal characters, sprinter Harold Abrahams — a Jewish scholar at Cambridge — mirrored a few of Mr. Fayed’s emotions of alienation and prejudice in Britain.

Mr. Fayed’s fame reached the sultan of Brunei — among the many world’s richest males — who admired how Mr. Fayed straddled Western and Muslim worlds. In an act of giant religion, the sultan in 1984 gave Mr. Fayed energy of lawyer for a variety of affairs. The following 12 months, Mr. Fayed used London property purchased for the sultan as leverage to amass the retail chain Home of Fraser, the group holding Harrods, in line with British media stories.

This layered monetary deal spurred a vitriolic problem from the notoriously contentious British businessman Roland “Tiny” Rowland, who claimed that Mr. Fayed was merely driving on the sultan’s cash and had bamboozled commerce overseers. Investigators in 1988 discovered no grounds to repeal the Harrods sale — whilst its income climbed and Mr. Fayed burnished the nickname “Chairman Mo.”

Mr. Fayed chalked up the combat to anti-foreigner phobias.

“It’s the colonial, imperial fantasy,” he told the New York Times in 1995. “Anybody who comes from a colony . . . they assume he’s nothing. So that you show they’re higher than they’re. You do issues which can be the discuss of the city. They usually assume, ‘How can he? He’s solely an Egyptian.’”

He wouldn’t abandon Britain, although. He saved afloat the money-losing Punch journal till 2002 and loved cheers from Fulham followers when the crew clawed again into England’s Premier League. The sale of Harrods, nonetheless, appeared to mark a turning level.

He principally shifted his life to Geneva along with his household. Survivors embrace his second spouse, the Finnish former mannequin Heini Wathén, and their 4 youngsters: Camilla, Jasmine, Omar and Karim.

But whilst his place in British life pale, he by no means let go of his resentment over being snubbed as a countryman.

“I’ve two Filipino nannies who’ve British passport and never me,” he advised the London Guardian in 2006. “I don’t want [a] British passport. Once you have been working round in an animal pores and skin, my ancestors have been constructing the pyramids.”

Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

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