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Who is Mohamed Al Fayed? Inside his friendship with Princess Diana

The Egyptian billionaire introduced Diana, Princess of Wales, to his son, Dodi Fayed, in the summer of 1997.
/ Source: TODAY

Season Six of "The Crown" — the show's final chapter exploring the life of the British royal family — tackles the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her partner Dodi Fayed.

Mohamed Al Fayed, Egyptian billionaire living in England and the father of Dodi Fayed, introduced the pair when he invited Diana to his home in the South of France in the summer of 1997. Though, the princess likely met Al Fayed a decade earlier at a polo match.

Actor Khalid Abdalla, who portrayed Dodi Fayed in the fifth and sixth seasons of "The Crown," spoke to about his performance on the show and how he hopes it is received by Al Fayed and other members of Dodi Fayed's family.

"I hope my performance and what I've done, and what we've done together, is the is the greatest condolence I could have given," Abdalla said. "Like finally after 26 years, he can be mourned."

Here's what to know about the life of Al Fayed, including how he went from Egypt to Britain and eventually entered the royal's sphere before his death in August 2023 at 94.Mohamed Al Fayed was born in Egypt

The billionaire was born Mohamed Fayed (the "al" prefix was added in the 70s, according to the BBC) in Alexandria, Egypt.

Al Fayed said he was born in 1933 and that he came from a long line of wealthy Egyptians, in his "account" of his life, the New York Times reported in 1985. However, a 750-page, 1988 British Department of Trade and Industry report looking into his takeover of the British department store House of Fraser found that Al Fayed and his brother Ali had falsified "their origins, their wealth, their business interests and their resources," the publication said in May 1989.

"The Crown" fans were first introduced to Al Fayed in Season Five, when the third episode took a detour into the past to spotlight the Egyptian billionaire and his origins. The episode also explained how he went from Egypt to sitting next to Diana at a polo match in the ‘80s.

Al Fayed married and later divorced Samira Khashoggi, and had one child with her: Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Mena'em Fayed, also known as Dodi, per Brittanica.

The Crown, Season 5
The Crown, Season 5Netflix

Al Fayed moved to the U.K. in the '60s, and purchased the Ritz Hotel Paris in 1979. He beat out mining company Lonrho to buy House of Fraser — which included department store Harrod's — per Brittanica.

He later married Heini Wathén, a Finnish model and socialite. They shared four children.

When did he meet Diana and the royal family?

It's unclear when Al Fayed first met members of the royal family, but he attended a polo match with Diana, the Princess of Wales, in July 1987.

In Episode Three of Season Five of "The Crown," Al Fayed meets Diana when he sits next to her at an equestrian event, shortly after he purchased Harrods.

Princess Diana, Mohamed Al-Fayed
Diana, Princess of Wales with Prince Charles and Mohamed Al-Fayed during the Harrods Polo Cup at Smith's Lawn in Windsor, UK, July 1987.Getty Images

"Diana is so easygoing with Mohamed ... Mohamed is not one of those who’s overwhelmed by her. They spark off each other very well," Michael Cole, then-director of public affairs at Harrods, told Vanity Fair in 1995.

Camilla Fayed, one of Al Fayed's daughters, told Katie Nicholl for the book "William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls" that she spent the summer of 1997 playing with Diana's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

"'That summer we all became a team. I was 11 at the time and my sister Jasmine was 15. We used to hang out with William and Harry all the time at Kensington Palace. We were all so excited about spending the summer together and it was wonderful. We adored each other and we did everything together."

She continued, "It was great fun being with Diana — she was so beautiful and kind and she doted on us all. She would tuck us up in bed like we were her own children. We were all very close — it’s just that no one really knew about our friendship."

Also in the summer of 1997, Al Fayed invited Diana, along with her sons, to join him at his home in St. Tropez, as depicted in Season Six of "The Crown."

During the trip, which was photographed by paparazzi, Diana also spent time with Al Fayed’s eldest son, Dodi, a film producer for the family’s company. The production company was behind the Oscar-winning film “Chariots of Fire,” as depicted in the fifth season of “The Crown.”

Did he really purchase King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpsons' home in France?

Al Fayed had a connection with King Edward VIII and his wife, American socialite Wallis Simpson. Edward abdicated the throne in 1936 so he could marry Simpson, who was twice-divorced.

In 1986, Al Fayed signed a 50-year lease on the couple's 14-room home outside of Paris, located in the park Bois de Boulogne, the New York Times reported.

He signed the lease to help restore the residence, which fell into disrepair following Edward's death in 1972 and Simpson's death in 1986, according to the publication.

Speaking to the newspaper, Al Fayed said he had met the couple once at a party at their Parisian home, about 20 years before he leased it. He called their relationship the "romance of the century."

"Here was a great king of a great empire, saying goodbye to it all for a beloved woman. And I had the chance to preserve the house where he lived and all these objects. They’re the heritage of Britain, which is my second home," he said.

Al Fayed also purchased the entire contents of the house. As "The Crown" shows, he worked with Sydney Johnson, the Duke of Windsor's valet for 32 years, to help with the restoration.

Over 40,000 of the Duke and Duchess of Windsors’ items were auctioned off by Sotheby’s, a fine arts auctioneer, in 1998, per the New York Times.

After Diana and Dodi's deaths, he propagated conspiracy theories

Diana and Dodi's brief romance came to an end when the couple were both killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, along with driver Henri Paul. Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones survived, but told “60 Minutes" in 2000 he did not remember anything from the crash.

Following the crash, Al Fayed spread conspiracy theories that the collision wasn't an accident. Vanity Fair reported he spent millions of dollars on private investigations and legal efforts, accusing the royal family of participating in a conspiracy to murder Diana and his son, as he told CNN in 2004. "It was not an accident," he said.

Following investigations from the French and British police, a 2008 British inquest into the accident — which including six months of hearings and testimony by 278 witnesses, per the New York Times — concluded the crash was caused by a combination of Paul's driving and the paparazzi pursuit.

Diana Harrods shrine
An eight-foot high bronze sculpture, which was unveiled in the Harrod's department store in Knightsbridge to mark the first anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed, son of Harrod's owner Mohamed al Fayed. Michael Stephens / PA Images via Getty Images

Mohamed Al Fayed died in 2023

Al Fayed died at age 94 on Aug. 30, 2023, his family said.

"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 on Wednesday August 30, 2023,″ his family said in a statement released by the Fulham club to the Associated Press. "He enjoyed a long and fulfilled retirement surrounded by his loved ones.″

Before his death, Al Fayed sold Harrod's to Qatar Holdings in 2010. "After 25 years as chairman of Harrods, Fayed has decided to retire and to spend more time with his children and grandchildren," a spokesperson for Fayed said when the sale was announced, according to The Guardian.

Three years later, Al Fayed also sold his soccer team, Fulham Football Club, to U.S. auto parts billionaire Shahid Khan, per CNN.

Prior to his death, Forbes estimated Al Fayed's net worth at $2 billion as of April 4, 2023.