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Former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed dies at 94

Mohamed Al Fayed, the businessman whose son died in a car crash with Princess Diana, has passed away at 94.

Mohamed Al Fayed, a prominent businessman originally from Egypt, passed away this week at the age of 94, according to his family. Al Fayed was well-known as the owner of Harrods department store and the Fulham Football Club. However, his life was forever changed when his son, Dodi Fayed, tragically died in a car crash with Princess Diana in Paris 26 years ago. This devastating loss led Al Fayed to spend years mourning and fighting against what he believed was the British establishment's involvement in their deaths.

In a statement released by the Fulham club, Al Fayed's family confirmed his peaceful passing due to old age on August 30, 2023. They expressed that he had enjoyed a long and fulfilling retirement surrounded by his loved ones. Throughout his life, Al Fayed firmly believed that Dodi and Diana were victims of a conspiracy orchestrated by Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II. He maintained that the royal family had arranged the accident because they disapproved of Diana dating an Egyptian. Al Fayed even claimed that Diana was pregnant and planning to marry Dodi, which the royal family could not accept due to their opposition to the princess marrying a Muslim.

During an inquest in 2008, Al Fayed named Prince Philip, two former London police chiefs, and the CIA as alleged conspirators. However, the official conclusion of the inquest was that Diana and Dodi died as a result of the reckless actions of their driver, who was an employee of the Ritz Hotel owned by Al Fayed, and the paparazzi who were chasing the couple. Separate investigations conducted in the UK and France also found no evidence of a conspiracy.

Al Fayed's complicated relationship with the royal family was recently portrayed in season five of the television series "The Crown," where he was depicted getting to know Diana. Born in Alexandria, Egypt, on January 27, 1929, Al Fayed was the son of a school inspector. He initially invested in shipping in Italy and the Middle East before moving to Britain in the 1960s and building his business empire.

At the peak of his wealth, Al Fayed owned the Ritz hotel in Paris, the Fulham soccer team in London, and the prestigious Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The Sunday Times Rich List, which tracks the fortunes of Britain's wealthiest individuals, estimated the family's wealth at £1.7 billion ($2.1 billion) this year, ranking Al Fayed as the 104th richest person in the country.

Al Fayed gained public attention in the 1980s when he engaged in a high-profile battle with rival tycoon "Tiny" Rowland for control of the House of Fraser group, which included Harrods. In 1985, Al Fayed and his brother acquired a 30% stake in House of Fraser for £130 million, eventually taking full control by paying an additional £615 million the following year. This transaction prompted an investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry, which concluded that Al Fayed and his brother had provided dishonest representations about their origins, wealth, business interests, and resources. Despite these findings, the deal was allowed to proceed.

Al Fayed was also involved in the "cash for questions" scandal that rocked British politics in the 1990s. He was sued for libel by British lawmaker Neil Hamilton after claiming that he had given Hamilton envelopes of cash and an extravagant stay at the Ritz in Paris in exchange for asking questions in the House of Commons. A jury ruled in Al Fayed's favor in December 1999. However, he never gained acceptance from the British establishment, as evidenced by the government's rejection of his citizenship applications, the reasons for which were never disclosed publicly.

In 1997, Al Fayed purchased the underdog London soccer team Fulham and invested heavily in coaches and players to improve its performance. His efforts paid off when the club achieved promotion to the Premier League in 2001. Al Fayed was also known for his friendship with Michael Jackson and erected a statue of the late pop star outside Fulham's London stadium in 2011, two years after his death. The statue, however, was removed in 2013 by Al Fayed's successor as team owner, Shahid Khan, as it was not well-received by Fulham fans.

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