Mohamed Al-Fayed Dies: ‘Chariots Of Fire’ Backer, Princess Diana Confidant, Harrod’s And Ritz Owner Was 94

Mohamed Al-Fayed, whose world-spanning business career touched lives in Hollywood, Paris, London and his native Egypt, died Thursday, Aug. 30, at 94.

His considerable business successes included owning fabled UK department store Harrods, the Ritz Hotel in Paris, and the Fulham Football Club in the UK.

But those accomplishments are almost overshadowed by his relationship with Princess Diana, who died in a car crash Aug. 31, 1997, with Al-Fayed’s son, Dodi, with whom she was in a relationship.

Mohammad Al-Fayed’s role in that pairing and his own friendship with Diana was extensively covered in the most recent season of the Netflix series on the Royal Family, The Crown. It also lends an eerie tinge to his death, which comes so close to the anniversary of the fatal crash that claimed Dodi and Diana.

In the years following the crash, Al-Fayed weathered criticism in the UK for claiming that the accident was a murder ordered by the Royal Family and British Intelligence, who acted because the couple was to be married. The crash, allegedly caused by a high-speed attempt to avoid paparazzi, was extensively investigated without any evidence of Al-Fayed’s allegations.

Al-Fayed forged a close relationship with the late Princess of Wales as they were involved with the same charities and attended similar events.

Statements from Al-Fayed’s business properties followed the announcement of his death.

“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,” said Fulham FC in a statement on social media.

The Egyptian tycoon sold the football club in 2013, shortly after selling Harrods in 2010. He bought the near-bankrupt The Ritz Hotel in Paris for $30 million, investing $250 million in renovations on the property.

Al-Fayed was born in 1922 in Roshdy, a neighborhood in Alexandria in the Kingdom of Egypt, as it was called before the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. He added the fancy prefix “Al” to his surname in the 1970s.

Before buying Harrods, he owned a shipping company in Egypt, eventually opening a London office.

While Al-Fayed was involved in his international businesses, his son Dodi was exploring Hollywood.

In 1979, Al-Fayed set up a film production company, Allied Stars Ltd., appointing his son, Dodi, as the chief executive.

The son’s venture resulted in seven Academy Awards in 1982 for :Chariots of Fire,” including Best Picture. The rest of the company’s output did not fare as well at the box office.

Al-Fayed was married twice: first to Saudi Arabian author Samira Khashoggi from 1953 to 1956, with whom he had Dodi.

In 1985, he married Finnish socialite and former model Heini Wathén, with whom he had another four children: Jasmine, Karim, Camilla, and Omar.

A funeral service was held at London Central Mosque in Regents Park on Friday, following Islamic conventions to bury the dead as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours.

He was then interred at Barrow Green Court, his 17th century country pile, in Oxted, Surrey, at the family mausoleum, next to son, Dodi.


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