In 1979, the Fayed brothers bought the fading Ritz Hotel in Paris for under $30 million and, with a 10-year, $250 million renovation, turned it into one of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed dined in the Imperial Suite before their fatal crash.
In 1984-85, in their greatest commercial coup in Britain, the Fayeds paid $840 million for the House of Fraser, the parent company of Harrods and scores of other stores, and invested $300 million more to refurbish the chain’s flagship, in London’s exclusive Knightsbridge section.
Prodded by a business rival, the government investigated the Harrods deal and in 1990 concluded that the Fayed brothers had “dishonestly misrepresented” themselves as descendants of an old landowning and shipbuilding family. The government report said the money for Harrods had probably come from the Sultan of Brunei. The sultan denied it, and Mr. Fayed, who was not accused of wrongdoing, called the report a smear.
In investigative reports by the press and the police, Mr. Fayed was accused by many women of unwanted sexual advances, job-related sexual harassment of female employees at Harrods, and even sexual assault involving teenage girls. He denied the allegations and, although he was questioned by the authorities in Britain, he was never prosecuted on such charges.
Mr. Fayed was bitter about being stymied in his quest for British citizenship, although all his children by his second wife held that status. As he noted, he had lived in Britain for decades, paid millions in taxes, employed thousands of people and, through his enterprises, contributed mightily to the economy.
“They could not accept that an Egyptian could own Harrods, so they threw mud at me,” he told reporters. He sold Harrods in 2010 to Qatar Holding, the sovereign wealth fund of the Emirate of Qatar, for more than $2 billion, and announced his retirement.