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Mohammad Al Fayed told the Financial Times that when he died he wanted his body to be displayed in the London department store he owned, Harrods – “so people can come and visit me”.

The remark, a mixture of bravado and provocation, was typical of the Egyptian-born businessman, who died aged 94. The statement also tinged with arrogance, because by 2010, he had sold the department store.

Indeed, Al Fayed’s aggressive efforts to place himself and his family at the center of British power began to unravel long ago, with the August 1997 plane crash that ended the lives of his beloved son Dodi and Diana, Princess of Wales. Al Fayed then accused the royal family of plotting to murder the princess.

While Al Fayed enjoyed the British high society life – owning houses in Mayfair and the countryside, flying helicopters to glittering sporting and social events – he harbored a deep resentment for his enduring outsider status , even though he cut a large swath of Britain’s retail and hospitality industries. He once said bitterly that the British upper class was “racist at heart”.

Clowns at Harrods Food Hall © Financial Times

Al Fayed’s Egyptian upbringing was humble. As a young man, he earned money by selling drinks and sewing machines on the streets of Alexandria. He will continue to develop the family’s business interests in multiple industries.

These ambitions were fueled by his professional relationship with Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, with whom he had a brief affair in the mid-1950s with Khashoggi’s sister, Samira. marry. Feyed later remarried to former Finnish model Heini Wathen in the 1980s, with whom they had four children.

He started his own shipping company in Egypt. His business interests in the UK began with the opening of an office in London in the 1960s. He added “Al” to his name in the 1970s.

Alfayed helped the Sultan of Brunei buy the Dorchester Hotel in London. He also used his account to acquire a number of trophy properties, including the Ritz hotel in Paris, which he bought in 1979. He spent hundreds of millions of dollars renovating the Ritz, and his dedication was later recognized with the title “The Ritz Paris”. Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian award.

At Craven Cottage football stadium, home of his club Fulham FC © REUTERS

His most profitable investment, the £615m takeover of Harrods in 1985, was also one of the most controversial. The deal for the upscale department store has been contested by rival bidder and long-time rival Rowland “Jr.” Rowland, who claims he was duped by Al Fayed.

A subsequent parliamentary inquiry found that Al Fayed and his brother had lied about their wealth to the government investigating the takeover. The family called the charges unfair.

Al Fayed tries to create a unique retail landscape at Harrods. In later years this included an Egyptian room with statues of himself and monuments to Dodi and Diana. The stuffed shark in Harrods’ food hall is named “Tiny” after his competitor. In 2010, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund bought the store for £1.5bn.

Together with Dodi, Al Fayed financed several films, most notably Chariots of Fire, which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1982. He also owned Fulham Football Club in South West London between 1997 and 2013, reflecting his lifelong passion for the game.

Son Dodi and Diana, Princess of Wales unveil their son at Harrods after his death © REUTERS

After inviting the pop star to a game, he commissioned a statue of Michael Jackson outside Fulham’s Craven Cottage. Fans who don’t like the statue “go to hell”, he said.

Club owner and chairman Shahid Khan said on Friday: “The Fulham story cannot be told without the positive impact Fayed has had as chairman. I always enjoy my time with Fayed, he Intelligent, colorful and loyal to Fulham.”

Al Fayed was an admirer of Margaret Thatcher and developed a close relationship with Conservative MPs in the 1980s, in which Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith were both embroiled in alleged The cash challenge scandal.

According to Al Fayed, Hamilton and Smith accepted his money in exchange for help in his long-running bid for British citizenship. Hamilton later lost a defamation case against Al Fayed and his applications for a British passport were rejected several times.

Speaking after his death, Al Fayed’s longtime spokesman and friend Michael Kerr said he was “a remarkable man in so many ways and the good things he did in the world outweighed all the criticism he had. combined are even more.”

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