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Former Harrods and Fulham FC owner Mohamed Al-Fayed dies aged 94

Then-Fulham owner Mohamed Al-Fayed waves to the crowd before a Premier League match against Tottenham at Craven Cottage stadium, London, in 2008  (AP)
Then-Fulham owner Mohamed Al-Fayed waves to the crowd before a Premier League match against Tottenham at Craven Cottage stadium, London, in 2008 (AP)

Former Harrods and Fulham FC owner Mohammed Al-Fayed has died aged 94.

The Egyptian-born businessman’s family said he “passed away peacefully of old age”, in a statement released on Friday.

A funeral was held for Mr Al-Fayed after Friday prayers at London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park, Sky News reported.

Mr Al-Fayed, whose son Dodi died in a car crash alongside Diana, Princess of Wales, in Paris in 1997, was the owner and chairman of Fulham between 1997 and 2013 when he sold it to current owner Shahid Khan.

In a statement issued by the club on Friday, 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.”

Fulham FC paid tribute to Mr Al-Fayed, who turned the club from a third-tier outfit to an established Barclays Premier League side during 16 years at its helm.

The late Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by the then-owner of Harrods, Mohamed Al-Fayed, at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1997 (PA)
The late Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by the then-owner of Harrods, Mohamed Al-Fayed, at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1997 (PA)

“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,” wrote the club on Twitter.

Mr Al-Fayed was born in Alexandria, Egypt, the son of a school inspector.

He came to London in the 1960s and set about building a business empire.

Once in the capital, the flamboyant and extrovert character was rarely out of the newspapers.

In the 1980s, he hit the headlines as he battled for control of the House of Fraser group, including its flagship store Harrods, with rival tycoon “Tiny” Rowland.

Mr Al-Fayed and his brother bought a 30 per cent stake in House Of Fraser from Mr Rowland in 1984, and took control of Harrods for £615 million the following year.

Mr Rowland’s London and Rhodesian Mining Company (Lonrho) had attempted to buy Harrods but was beaten to it by the Egyptian family.

Mohammed Al-Fayed stands in front of the east stand of Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC, in 1997 (REUTERS)
Mohammed Al-Fayed stands in front of the east stand of Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC, in 1997 (REUTERS)

Mr Rowland later accused Mr Al-Fayed of breaking into his safety deposit box at the department store.

Mr Al-Fayed was arrested in March 1998 along with Harrods security director John Macnamara and four other store staff, but was never charged.

Mr Al-Fayed sold world-famous department store for a reported £1.5 billion in 2010 to Qatar Holding, the investment arm of the Qatar Investment Authority, which trades on behalf of the state.

Mr Al-Fayed later expanded his business interests to include the Ritz hotel in Paris in 1979, and Fulham Football Club.

As well as the worlds of business and royalty, he became embroiled in politics in 1994 when he was at the centre of the “cash-for-questions” scandal that rocked Westminster.

Mr Al-Fayed claimed via the Guardian he had paid then Tory MPs Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith thousands of pounds to illegally table questions in the Commons on his behalf.

Mr Smith apologised and stepped down at the 1997 election but Mr Hamilton sued Mr Al-Fayed for libel, landing himself a seven-figure legal bill and eventual bankruptcy after losing to the businessman.

Mr Hamilton, who was later heavily criticised in a Commons report into the affair, was voted out at the 1997 election and is now the leader of Ukip.

Mr Al-Fayed’s time as the Cottagers’ chairman was suitably tumultuous.

Fulham were languishing in Division Two when he took over in 1997 but spending on players and high-profile managers including Kevin Keegan and Roy Hodgson saw them rise to the top-half of the Premier League in the early Noughties, peaking in qualification for the Europa League.

Off the pitch, fans were treated to some bizarre spectacles, including a 1999 visit from Mr Al-Fayed’s friend Michael Jackson.

The Harrods boss and the club faced some ridicule when, in 2011, two years after Jackson’s death, a statue of the King Of Pop was erected at its Craven Cottage ground.

Fulham supporters were quick to share their grief at Mr Al-Fayed’s death on Friday night.

“We owe him everything,” wrote one fan. “RIP Legend.”

The billionaire’s relationship with the British royal family was recently depicted in season five of The Crown, where Mr Al-Fayed, played by Salim Daw, was seen getting to know Diana.

The Sunday Times Rich List from 2021 reported that Mohamed Al-Fayed and family were worth around £1.7 billion.

He was married twice, and had five children.