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Ex-Fuham owner and Egypt’s Mohamed al-Fayed, whose son died with Princess Diana, dead at 94

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Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed - Fulham v Queens Park Rangers - Barclays Premier League - Craven Cottage - 11/12 - 2/10/11. Mandatory Credit: Action Images/ Jed Leicester/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights
  • Died day before anniversary of son and Diana’s death
  • Promoted discredited conspiracy theory over crash
  • Billionaire tolerated but not embraced in Britain
  • Owned establishment symbols – Fulham FC, Ritz in Paris

 

 

Mohamed al-Fayed, the self-made Egyptian billionaire who bought the Harrods department store and promoted the discredited conspiracy theory that the British royal family was behind the death of his son and Princess Diana, has died, his family said.

Born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, al-Fayed began his career selling fizzy drinks and then worked as a sewing-machine salesman. He built his family’s fortune in real estate, shipping and construction, first in the Middle East and then in Europe.

Although al-Fayed owned establishment symbols such as Harrods, Fulham and the Ritz hotel in Paris, he was always an outsider in Britain, tolerated but not embraced.

He fell out with the British government over its refusal to grant him citizenship of the country that was his home for decades, and often threatened to move to France, which gave him the Legion of Honour, its highest civilian award.

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Al-Fayed – who could be charming, autocratic, vindictive, and at times wildly outspoken – spent 10 years trying to prove Diana and his son Dodi were murdered when their car crashed in a road tunnel in Paris in 1997 as they tried to outrun paparazzi photographers on motorbikes

Unsupported by any evidence, according to the inquest into Diana’s death, he claimed that she was bearing Dodi’s child and accused Prince Philip, the queen’s husband, of ordering Britain’s security services to kill her to stop her marrying a Muslim and having his baby.

Al-Fayed died on Wednesday, his family said, a day before the 26th anniversary of Dodi and Diana’s death.

“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,” the family statement read.

While al-Fayed was known for self-invention, exaggeration, and boasting, he was also a central figure in key moments in Britain’s recent history.

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His rancorous takeover of Harrods in 1985 sparked one of Britain’s most bitter business feuds, while in 1994 he caused a scandal with the disclosure that he had paid politicians to ask questions on his behalf in parliament.

Like many billionaires, al-Fayed spurned convention. He once said he wanted to be mummified in a golden sarcophagus in a glass pyramid on the roof of Harrods.

At the store, where he instituted a dress code – even for customers – which he enforced in person, he installed a kitsch bronze memorial statue of Diana and Dodi dancing beneath the wings of an albatross.

As the owner of Fulham, he erected a larger-than-life, sequined statue of Michael Jackson outside the ground even though the singer only attended one match. When people complained, he said: “If some stupid fans don’t understand or appreciate such a gift, they can go to hell.”

HARRODS TAKEOVER

Much of al-Fayed’s past remained murky – even his date of birth. He said he was born in then British-ruled Egypt in 1933. However, a British government inquiry into the Harrods takeover said 1929.

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Al-Fayed became resident in Britain in 1974 and added the al to his name. Casting this as self-aggrandisement, the satirical magazine Private Eye nicknamed him the “Phoney Pharaoh”.

In 1985 he and his brothers beat businessman Roland “Tiny” Rowland to Harrods, one of the most famous shops in the world.

Al-Fayed hoped that buying the store would win him acceptance in British society. Instead, it led to a series of bitter confrontations.

Rowland took al-Fayed and his brothers to a Department of Trade inquiry, claiming that they had misrepresented their wealth.

The inquiry cast doubt on their origins as part of a wealthy business family, past business connections, and their independent financial resources.

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After a quarter of century of ownership, al-Fayed sold Harrods to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund in 2010.

Al-Fayed’s application for British citizenship was denied by the government in 1995. He said racism kept him on the fringe of acceptability.

A year earlier, al-Fayed had embarrassed the government by disclosing that he had made gifts and payments to politicians in return for them asking parliamentary questions for him. The so-called “cash-for-questions” scandal ended the careers of four politicians, including one minister.

The allegations of sleaze undermined the Conservatives, who lost a landslide election to Labour leader Tony Blair in 1997.

DIANA AND DODI

That summer, al-Fayed’s son Dodi began a relationship with Princess Diana, who had divorced Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne. Dodi and Diana were pictured by British tabloids on holiday on a yacht in the south of France.

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After travelling to Paris, the couple were killed when their Mercedes, driven at high speed by a chauffeur who had been drinking whisky and was trying to evade the paparazzi, crashed into a concrete pillar in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel.

Beset by grief and an overwhelming sense of injustice, al-Fayed spent millions on legal battles to ensure there was an inquest.

When it started in London a decade after the crash, al-Fayed would accuse everyone from the royal family, prime minister Blair, Diana’s sister Sarah, the French embalmers of Diana’s body, and the Paris ambulance drivers of being implicated.

But the jury said the couple were unlawfully killed by their chauffeur’s driving. Al-Fayed said he accepted the verdict and gave up legal attempts to show they were murdered.

“I’m leaving the rest for God to get my revenge,” he said.

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-Reuters

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

June 12 relief for Ten Hag…to stay at Old Trafford

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Manchester United Can Still Finish Fourth, Says Erik Ten Hag -

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will remain in the job for next season and has entered into talks with the Old Trafford club over a contract extension despite the team’s lowest ever Premier League finish of eighth, British media reported.

The decision comes after an end-of-season review by the club’s board for the 2023-24 campaign, which finished on a high with a shock FA Cup final win over favourites Manchester City.

Ten Hag’s contract runs until the end of next season, with the club having the option of extending it a further 12 months.

Former Ajax Amsterdam coach Ten Hag had come under increasing pressure after 20-times English champions United suffered their worst start to a season since 1962-63 with eight defeats in their first 15 matches in all competitions.

They ended up eighth after 14 defeats in their 38 league games and bowed out of the Champions League in the group phase.

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Ten Hag’s job security had been the subject of speculation all season and many pundits believed the FA Cup final would be the Dutchman’s last game with the team, win or lose.

But moments after their thrilling triumph, the 54-year-old insisted he had no doubt he would be back and said he had received the backing of the club’s owners all season.

“I’m in a project and we are exactly where we want to be. We’re constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess at United, and we are on our way to construct a team for the future,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team also plays to an identity. What you need to play is to be available, you need a strong squad in top football, and especially when you play in England, the Premier League is so competitive.”

INJURY WOES

Ten Hag pointed to United’s revolving door of injuries last term, the most of any Premier League team and concentrated in key positions such as central defence.

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He also spoke about the breakout seasons of young players such as midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, who is part of England’s Euro 2024 squad in Germany, and Argentina winger Alejandro Garnacho.

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies, having also won last season’s League Cup.

Media reports said that all eventualities were considered in the club’s post-season review and the clear preference was for Ten Hag to remain in charge at Old Trafford.

Among coaches linked to the job as potential replacements were Thomas Tuchel and England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club have searched for someone to lead them back to the heights of their glory years.

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He guided United to third in the league in his debut season

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood to flow in Chelsea veins

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Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Everton v Fulham - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - December 19, 2023 Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

Chelsea have signed centre back Tosin Adarabioyo from fellow west London club Fulham on a free transfer, the Premier League side announced on Friday.

Adarabioyo, a former England youth international is of Nigerian descent. He is the latest Nigerian linked with Chlesea after Celestine Babayaro, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses among others.

The 26-year-old Adarabioyo who will join the Stamford Bridge side on a four-year contract beginning on July 1, has made one appearance for the England Under-19s and has played 78 times in the Premier League.

He is the first player to join Chelsea since they announced the arrival of new head coach Enzo Maresca, opens new tab earlier this week, and will bolster their options at centre back following the departure of veteran Thiago Silva.

“We are delighted to bring Tosin to Chelsea,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

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“Throughout his career, he has showcased his maturity and defensive qualities and has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League in recent seasons.

“He is ready to make the step up to Chelsea and work alongside the talented players in our squad. We look forward to Tosin joining up with us for pre-season.”

Chelsea are looking to revive their fortunes under Maresca after finishing sixth in the standings last season.

“I’m looking forward to starting work with Enzo and I’m sure the boys are too,” Adarabioyo said.

“It’s going to be exciting. We’re going to play good football and win a lot of games. There are top players in this squad and I’m eager to play with them all.”

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-Reuters

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Nigerian-born Ogbonna leaves West Ham after nine-year stay

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Premier League - West Ham United v Luton Town - London Stadium, London, Britain - May 11, 2024 West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna applauds fans as he is substituted REUTERS/Tony Obrien/File Photo

West Ham United centre back Angelo Ogbonna is leaving the club after nine years in east London, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

Ogbonna was born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy from Nigeria in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino in the central part of the country, but managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He is now 36.

The  Italy international made 201 Premier League appearances for the club and was part of their Europa Conference League-winning side last year.

The former Juventus player struggled with several injuries during his time at West Ham, including a cruciate ligament tear suffered in 2021 that kept him out for almost a year.

“When he was not playing, Ogbonna was always a willing supporter of the club’s community work,” West Ham said in a statement. “He will always be a beloved member of the West Ham United family

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-Reuters

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