Mohamed Al-Fayed (/ælfaɪˈɛd/; Egyptian Arabic: محمد أنور شاكر عبد السيد الفايد [mahamad el fajed]; born 27 January 1929) is an Egyptian business magnate. Fayed's business interests include ownership of Hôtel Ritz Paris and formerly Harrods Department Store, Knightsbridge. Al-Fayed sold his ownership of Fulham F.C. to Shahid Khan in 2013.
In his personal life, Fayed had a son, Dodi, from his first marriage to Samira Khashoggi. Dodi died in a car crash in Paris with Diana, Princess of Wales on 31 August 1997. Fayed married Finnish socialite and former model Heini Wathén in 1985, with whom he has four children: Jasmine, Karim, Camilla, and Omar. In 2013, Fayed's wealth was estimated at US$1.4 billion, making him the 1,031st-richest person in the world in 2013.
He was born Mohamed Fayed on 27 January 1929, in Bakos, Alexandria, Egypt, the eldest son of an Egyptian primary school teacher. Fayed has five siblings: Ali, Ashraf, Salah, Soaad, and Safia. Ali and Salah have been his business colleagues.
He was married for two years, from 1954 to 1956, to Samira Khashoggi. Fayed worked for his wife's brother, Saudi Arabian arms dealer and businessman Adnan Khashoggi.
Some time in the early 1970s, he began using "Al-Fayed" rather than "Fayed". His brothers Ali and Salah began to follow suit at the time of their acquisition of the House of Fraser in the 1980s, though by the late 1980s, both had reverted to calling themselves simply "Fayed". Some have assumed that Fayed's addition of "Al-" to his name was to imply aristocratic origins, like "de" in French or "von" in German, though Al- does not have the same social connotations in Arabic. This assumption led to Private Eye nicknaming him the "Phoney Pharaoh".
Fayed and his brothers founded a shipping company in Egypt before moving its headquarters to Genoa, Italy with additional offices in London. Around 1964 Fayed entered a close relationship with Haitian leader François Duvalier, known as 'Papa Doc' Duvalier, and became interested in the construction of a Fayed-Duvalier oil refinery in Haiti. He also associated with the geologist George de Mohrenschildt. Fayed terminated his stay in Haiti six months later when a sample of "crude oil" provided by Haitian associates proved to be low-grade molasses.
It was then that Fayed moved to England where he lived in central London. In the mid 1960s, Fayed met the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who entrusted Fayed with helping transform Dubai, where he set up IMS (International Marine Services) in 1968. Fayed introduced British companies like the Costain Group (of which he became a director and 30 percent shareholder), Bernard Sunley & Sons and Taylor Woodrow to the Emirate to carry out the required construction work. He also became a financial adviser to the then Sultan of Brunei Omar Ali Saifuddien III, in 1966.
He briefly joined the board of the mining conglomerate Lonrho in 1975 but left after a disagreement. In 1979, Fayed bought The Ritz hotel in Paris, France for US$30 million.
In 1984, Fayed and his brothers purchased a 30 percent stake in House of Fraser, a group that included the famous London store Harrods, from Roland 'Tiny' Rowland, the head of Lonrho. In 1985, he and his brothers bought the remaining 70 percent of House of Fraser for £615m. Rowland claimed the Fayed brothers had lied about their background and wealth and put pressure on the government to investigate them. A Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) inquiry into the Fayeds was launched. The DTI's subsequent report was critical, but no action was taken against the Fayeds, and while many believed the contents of the report, others felt it was politically motivated.
In 1998, Rowland accused Fayed of stealing papers and jewels from his Harrods safe deposit box. Fayed was arrested, but the charges were dropped. Rowland died in 1998. Fayed settled the dispute with a payment to his widow; he also sued the Metropolitan Police for false arrest in 2002, but lost the case.
In 1994, House of Fraser went public, but Fayed retained private ownership of Harrods. He relaunched the humour publication Punch in 1996 but it folded again in 2002. Al Fayed unsuccessfully applied for British citizenship twice – once in 1994 and once in 1999. It was suggested that the feud with Rowland contributed to Fayed's being refused British citizenship the first time.
In 1994, in what became known as the cash-for-questions affair, Fayed revealed the names of MPs he had paid to ask questions in parliament on his behalf, but who had failed to declare their fees. It saw the Conservative MPs Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith leave the government in disgrace, and a Committee on Standards in Public Life established to prevent such corruption occurring again. Fayed also revealed that the cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken had stayed for free at the Ritz Hotel in Paris at the same time as a group of Saudi arms dealers leading to Aitken's subsequent unsuccessful libel case and imprisonment for perjury. During this period, from 1988 to February 1998, Al-Fayed's spokesman was Michael Cole, a former BBC journalist, although Cole's PR work for Al-Fayed did not cease in 1998.
Hamilton lost a subsequent libel action against Al-Fayed in December 1999 and a subsequent appeal against the verdict in December 2000. The former MP has always denied that he was paid by Al-Fayed for asking questions in parliament. Hamilton's libel action related to a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary broadcast on 16 January 1997 in which Al-Fayed made claims that the MP had received up to £110,000 in cash and received other gratuities for asking parliamentary questions. Hamilton's basis for his appeal was that the original verdict was invalid because Al-Fayed had paid £10,000 for documents stolen from the dustbins of Hamilton's legal representatives by Benjamin Pell, also known as 'Benjy the Binman'.
In 2003, Fayed moved from Surrey, UK to Switzerland , alleging a breach in an agreement with Inland Revenue. In 2005, he moved back to United Kingdom , saying that he "regards Britain as home". He moored a yacht in Monaco called the Sokar prior to selling it in 2014.
After previously denying that Harrods was for sale, Harrods was sold to Qatar Holdings, the sovereign wealth fund of the emirate of Qatar, on 10 May 2010. A fortnight previously, Fayed had stated that "People approach us from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. Fair enough. But I put two fingers up to them. It is not for sale. This is not Marks and Spencer or Sainsbury's. It is a special place that gives people pleasure. There is only one Mecca."
Harrods was sold for £1.5 billion. Fayed later revealed in an interview that he decided to sell Harrods following the difficulty in getting his dividend approved by the trustee of the Harrods pension fund. Fayed said "I'm here every day, I can't take my profit because I have to take a permission of those bloody idiots. I say is this right? Is this logic? Somebody like me? I run a business and I need to take bloody fucking trustee's permission to take my profit". Fayed was appointed honorary chairman of Harrods, a position he was scheduled to hold for at least six months.
In 1972, Fayed purchased the Balnagown estate in Easter Ross, Northern Scotland. From an initial twelve acres, Al-Fayed has since built the estate up to sixty-five thousand acres. Al-Fayed has invested more than £20 million in the estate, restored the 14th century pink Balnagown Castle, and created a tourist accommodation business. The Highlands of Scotland tourist board awarded Al-Fayed the "Freedom of the Highlands" in 2002, in recognition of his "outstanding contribution and commitment to the highlands."
As an Egyptian with links to Scotland, Al-Fayed was intrigued enough to fund a 2008 reprint of the 15th-century chronicle Scotichronicon by Walter Bower. The Scotichronicon describes how Scota, a sister of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen, fled her family and landed in Scotland, bringing with her the Stone of Scone. According to the chronicle, Scotland was later named in her honour. The tale is disputed by modern historians. Al-Fayed later declared that "The Scots are originally Egyptians and that's the truth."
In 2009, Al-Fayed revealed that he was a supporter of Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, announcing to the Scots that "It's time for you to waken up and detach yourselves from the English and their terrible politicians...whatever help is needed for Scotland to regain its independence, I will provide it...when you Scots regain your freedom, I am ready to be your president."
Fayed set up the Al Fayed Charitable Foundation in 1987 aiming to help children with life-limiting conditions and children living in poverty. The charity works mainly with charities and hospices for disabled and neglected children in the UK, Thailand and Mongolia.
Some of the charities with which it works include Francis House Hospice in Manchester, Great Ormond Street Hospital and ChildLine. In 1998, Al Fayed bought Princess Diana's old boarding school in Kent and helped found the New School at West Heath for traumatised children there.
Al-Fayed bought the freehold of West London professional football club Fulham F.C. for £6.25 million in 1997. The club was purchased via Bill Muddyman's Muddyman Group. His long-term aim was that Fulham would become a FA Premier League side within five years. In 2001, Fulham took the First Division (now Football League Championship) under manager Jean Tigana, winning 100 points and scoring over 100 goals in the season. This meant that Al-Fayed had achieved his objective of Fulham becoming a Premier League club a year ahead of schedule. By 2002, Fulham were competing in European football, winning the Intertoto Cup and challenging in the UEFA Cup. Fulham reached the final of the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League and continued to play in the Premier League throughout Al-Fayed's tenure as owner (which ended in 2013).
Fulham temporarily left Craven Cottage while it was being upgraded to meet modern safety standards. There were fears that Fulham would not return to the Cottage after it was revealed that Al-Fayed had sold the first right to build on the ground to a property development firm.
Fulham lost a legal case against former manager Tigana in 2004 after Al-Fayed had wrongly alleged that Tigana had overpaid more than £7m for new players and had negotiated transfers in secret. In 2009, Al-Fayed said that he was in favour of a wage cap for footballers, and criticised the management of The Football Association and Premier League as "run by donkeys who don't understand business, who are dazzled by money."
A statue of the American entertainer Michael Jackson was unveiled by Al-Fayed in April 2011 at Craven Cottage In 1999 Jackson had attended a league game against Wigan Athletic at the stadium. Following criticisms of the statue, Al-Fayed said "If some stupid fans don't understand and appreciate such a gift this guy gave to the world they can go to hell. I don't want them to be fans." The statue was removed by the club's new owners in 2013; Al-Fayed blamed the club's subsequent relegation from the Premier League on the 'bad luck' brought by its removal. Al-Fayed then donated the statue to the National Football Museum.
Under Al-Fayed Fulham F.C. was owned by Mafco Holdings, based in the tax haven of Bermuda. Mafco Holdings is owned by Al-Fayed and his family. By 2011, Al-Fayed had loaned Fulham F.C. £187 million in interest free loans. In July 2013, it was announced that Al-Fayed had sold the club to Pakistani American businessman Shahid Khan, who owns the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.
Lady Diana Spencer was born in 1961, and married the heir to the British throne, Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1981, becoming the Princess of Wales. Diana was an international celebrity and a frequent visitor to Harrods in the 1980s. Al-Fayed and Dodi first met Diana and Charles when they were introduced at a polo tournament in July 1986, that had been sponsored by Harrods.
Diana and Charles divorced in 1996. Diana was hosted by Al-Fayed in the south of France in the summer of 1997, with her two sons, the Princes William and Harry. For the holiday, Fayed bought a 195 ft yacht, the Jonikal (later renamed the Sokar). Dodi and Diana later began a private cruise on the Jonikal and paparazzi photographs of the couple in an embrace were published. Diana's friend, the journalist Richard Kay, confirmed that Diana was involved in "her first serious romance" since her divorce.
Dodi and Diana went on a second private cruise on the Jonikal in the third week of August, and returned from Sardinia to Paris on 30 August. The couple privately dined at the Ritz later that day, after the behaviour of the press caused them to cancel a restaurant reservation, they then planned to spend the night at Dodi's apartment near the Arc de Triomphe. In an attempt to deceive the paparazzi, a decoy car left the front of the hotel, while Diana and Dodi departed at speed in a Mercedes-Benz W140 driven by chauffeur Henri Paul from the rear of the hotel. Five minutes later, the car crashed in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel, killing Paul and Dodi. Diana died later in hospital. Fayed arrived in Paris the next day and viewed Dodi's body, which was returned to Britain for an Islamic funeral.
From February 1998, Al-Fayed maintained that the crash was a result of a conspiracy, and later contended that the crash was orchestrated by MI6 on the instructions of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His claims that the crash was a result of a conspiracy were dismissed by a French judicial investigation, but Fayed appealed against this verdict. A libel action was brought against Al-Fayed by Neil Hamilton (see above). During the questioning of one day of the hearing, which referred to Al-Fayed's conspiracy theories, writer Martyn Gregory and a journalist from ITN counted 70 instances of Al-Fayed saying "I don't know" or "I can't remember" to questions relating to the tragedy.
An inquest headed by Lord Justice Scott Baker into the deaths of Diana and Dodi began at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, on 2 October 2007 and lasted for six months. It was a continuation of the original inquest that had begun in 2004.
At the Scott Baker inquest Fayed accused the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, her sister, and numerous others, of plotting to kill the Princess of Wales. Their motive, he claimed, was that they could not tolerate the idea of the Princess marrying a Muslim.
Al-Fayed first claimed that the Princess was pregnant to the Daily Express in May 2001, and that he was the only person who had been told of this news. Witnesses at the inquest who said the Princess was not pregnant, and could not have been, were part of the conspiracy according to Al-Fayed. Fayed's testimony at the inquest was roundly condemned in the press as being farcical. Members of the British Government's Intelligence and Security Committee accused Fayed of turning the inquest into a 'circus' and called for it to be ended maturely. Lawyers representing Al-Fayed later accepted at the inquest that there was no direct evidence that either the Duke of Edinburgh or MI6 had been involved in any murder conspiracy involving Diana or Dodi. A few days before Al-Fayed's appearance, John Macnamara, a former senior detective at Scotland Yard and Al-Fayed's investigator for five years from 1997, was forced to admit on 14 February 2008 that he had no evidence to suggest foul play, except for the assertions Al-Fayed had made to him. His admissions also related to the lack of evidence for Al-Fayed's claims about the alleged pregnancy of the Princess and the couple's supposed engagement.
The jury verdict, given on 7 April 2008, was that Diana and Dodi had been "unlawfully killed" through the grossly negligent driving of chauffeur Henri Paul, who was intoxicated, and the pursuing vehicles.
Lawyers for Al-Fayed also accepted that there was no evidence to support the assertion that Diana was illegally embalmed in order to cover up a pregnancy, a "pregnancy" that they accepted, could not be established by any medical evidence. They also accepted that there was no evidence to support the assertion the French emergency and medical services had played any role in a conspiracy to harm Diana. Following the Baker inquest, Al-Fayed said that he was abandoning his campaign to prove that Diana and Dodi were murdered in a conspiracy, and said that he would accept the verdict of the jury.
Al-Fayed's business interests include:
Al-Fayed's major business purchases have included:
Young women applying for employment at Harrods were often submitted to HIV tests and gynacological examinations. These women were then selected to spend the weekend with Al-Fayed in Paris. In her profile of Al-Fayed for Vanity Fair, Maureen Orth described how according to former employees "Fayed regularly walked the store on the lookout for young, attractive women to work in his office. Those who rebuffed him would often be subjected to crude, humiliating comments about their appearance or dress...A dozen ex-employees I spoke with said that Fayed would chase secretaries around the office and sometimes try to stuff money down women's blouses".
In 1994, Hermina Da Silva quit her job as a nanny at Al-Fayed's home in Oxted. Da Silva had prepared accusations that she was sexually harassed by Al-Fayed, and she was subsequently arrested by detectives and held overnight in cells following a complaint of theft by an employee of Al-Fayeds. She was later released without charge after officers concluded she had not stolen anything. Al-Fayed eventually settled with her out of court, and she was awarded £12,000.
Al-Fayed was interviewed under caution by the Metropolitan Police after an allegation of sexual assault against a 15-year-old schoolgirl in October 2008. The case was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, after they found that there was no realistic chance of conviction due to conflicting statements.
In December 1997, the ITV current affairs programme, The Big Story broadcast testimonies from a number of former Harrods employees who spoke of how women were routinely sexually harassed by Al-Fayed.
A December 2017 episode of Channel 4's Dispatches programme alleged that Al-Fayed had sexually harassed three Harrods employees, and attempted to "groom" them. One of the women was aged 17 at the time. Cheska Hill-Wood, now in her 40s, waived her right to anonymity to be interviewed for the programme. The programme alleged al-Fayed targeted young employees over a 13 year period.