Mohamed Al-Fayed dies, with ex-Harrods and Fulham owner passing away 26 years after son's fatal crash with Diana

1 September 2023, 21:15 | Updated: 2 September 2023, 01:01

Mohamed Al-Fayed has died
Mohamed Al-Fayed has died. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Kit Heren

Mohamed Al-Fayed has died aged 94.

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The former owner of Harrods and Fulham football club passed away on Wednesday, with the news only confirmed by his family on Friday.

Egyptian-born Mr Al-Fayed was an outspoken businessman whose son Dodi became the lover of Princess Diana. Dodi died along with Diana in a car crash in Paris in 1997, which Mr Al-Fayed blamed on the royal family for years.

The businessman was once reputed to be among the world's richest men, and his net worth stood at about £1.3 billion by the time of his death.

In a statement released by Fulham, 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."

Mr Al-Fayed has been buried alongside Dodi on their Surrey estate.

Mohamed Al-Fayed
Mohamed Al-Fayed. Picture: Alamy

An Egyptian newspaper reported comments by a relative, saying that "my wife’s grandfather, the Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed, has died. We belong to God and to Him we shall return".

Mr Al-Fayed, a colourful and outspoken personality, had his most controversial moment after the death of Diana and Dodi.

Dodi had begun a relationship with Diana after holidaying on the family yacht with her. The two were staying in Paris in 1997 when their car crashed while attempting to avoid photographers - almost 26 years to the day before Mr Al-Fayed's own death.

The grief-stricken businessman claimed for ten years afterwards that the crash was organised by MI6 on behalf of Prince Philip, a claim that was never substantiated at all.

He was forced to concede defeat after a public inquest that ended in 2008 and found that the driver of the car was intoxicated. Mr Al-Fayed installed a memorial to Diana and Dodi in Harrods.

Read more: Ex-Fayed Spokesman Claims New Evidence Will Emerge About Diana’s Death

Read more: Unheard Princess Diana tapes reveal her claim that Charles was disappointed when Harry was born as he 'wanted a girl'

Princess Diana with Mohammed Al Fayed
Princess Diana with Mohammed Al Fayed. Picture: Getty

The businessman, who had lived in London since the 1960s, bought Harrods in 1985, after gaining a minority stake in the company that owned the iconic London department store in 1984. He sold Harrods in 2010 to the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar for £1.5 billion.

He said of the sale: "Of course it makes me sad... you can go ask everyone, people don't want me to go. But first of all I can't take this...

"I have children, I have grandchildren, you know... I have done it. And time for me now to rest. And enjoy."

Mohamed Al-Fayed
Mohamed Al-Fayed. Picture: Alamy

He had bought the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1979.

Mr Al-Fayed bought Fulham for £6.25million in 1997, investing large sums in the club and getting them promoted to the Premier League. He sold the club in 2013.

As well as footballing achievements, his time at the west London club is also notable for the installation of a statue of his friend Michael Jackson outside the stadium, Craven Cottage.

Mr Al-Fayed with the statue
Mr Al-Fayed with the statue. Picture: Alamy

American pop legend Mr Jackson had no other connection to the club, so the statue bemused many fans and outside observers, leading to furious comments from Mr Al-Fayed.

The new owners removed the statue in 2013. The next season Fulham were relegated, which the Egyptian attributed to the statue being taken away.

Fulham said it was "incredibly saddened" by Mr Al-Fayed's death.

In a tweet, the west London club said: "Everyone at Fulham was incredibly saddened to learn of the death of our former owner and chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed. 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."

Dodi Al-Fayed
Dodi Al-Fayed. Picture: Getty

And in a tribute on the club's website, his successor Mr Khan said: "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."

Mr Al-Fayed with the Queen in 1997
Mr Al-Fayed with the Queen in 1997. Picture: Alamy

Mr Al-Fayed was born in Alexandria in Egypt in 1929, the son of a school inspector. He began his career as a Coca-Cola salesman before he and his brothers started a shipping company. They later relocated to Italy.

Mr Al-Fayed then moved to London in the 1960s, where he began his spree of acquisitions.

He caused a major political stir in 1994 when he revealed that he had paid certain MPs to ask questions in Parliament.

Mohamed Al-Fayed
Mohamed Al-Fayed. Picture: Alamy

Mr Al-Fayed, who bought a large estate in Scotland in the 1970s and restored a castle on the grounds, gave his backing to the Scottish independence movement in 2009.

"It's time for you to waken up and detach yourselves from the English and their terrible politicians," he told the Sunday Times. He even offered his services as the country's president.

A memorial commissioned by Mohamed Al Fayed s in Harrods depicting Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana.
A memorial commissioned by Mohamed Al Fayed s in Harrods depicting Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana. Picture: Alamy

Mr Al-Fayed was married twice - first to Dodi's mother Samira Khashoggi in the 1950s, and then to former model Heini Wathen.

He and Ms Wathen had four children, and lived together in Surrey.

In 2018, Channel 4 News ran a documentary accusing Mr Al Fayed of grooming and sexually harassing ex-Harrods employees.

The businessman's Al Fayed Foundation, which was set up in 1987, aims to help children with life-limiting conditions and those who are living in poverty.