BRITAIN’S most iconic luxury department store, Harrods of Knightsbridge, has been sold to the Qatar royal family for over £1.5bn, after a quarter of a century in the hands of Egyptian mogul Mohamed Al-Fayed.
News of the deal came despite 81-year-old Al-Fayed’s avowed intention never to sell the racing green-fronted store, claiming last month that he would stick “two fingers” up at potential buyers.
Al-Fayed was advised on the sale by Lazard, whose chairman Ken Costa said in a statement: “After 25 years as chairman of Harrods, Mohamed Al-Fayed has decided to retire and to spend more time with his children and grand-children.
“Qatar Holding was specifically chosen by the trust as they had both the vision and financial capacity to support the long term successful growth of Harrods.”
Al-Fayed, who also owns Fulham football club, is thought to have originally demanded close to £2bn for the store from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, the prime minister of the Gulf state of Qatar and chairman of its investment fund Qatar Holding.
The Qataris now become only the fifth owner of Harrods in the store’s 170-year history. Al-Fayed said he would stay on as honorary chairman of the group.
Qatar Holding’s vice-chairman Hussain Ali Al-Abdulla said the fund would do its best “to upgrade this monument to make it even greater and better for tourism and for the British people”.
TIME LINE | MOHAMED AL-FAYED’S LIFETIME OF LUXURY
After a bitterly-fought takeover battle, Al-Fayed beats mining giant Lonrho to purchase House of Fraser, the holding company controlling Harrods. Spurred on by Lonrho’s Tiny Rowland, the British government accuses Al-Fayed of having misrepresented his ability to finance the takeover, though he later proved his solvency.
● October 1994
The Harrods owner stirs up a storm with the so-called “cash for questions” affair, when he claimed to have paid MPs to table parliamentary questions on his behalf.
● August 1997
Al-Fayed’s son Dodi is killed along with Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris. Al-Fayed launches a legal campaign to show that the couple were murdered, though he later gave up his attempts and said he accepted the verdict of an inquest jury that Diana and Dodi were unlawfully killed by the grossly negligent driving of their chauffeur and paparazzi photographers pursuing them.
● 4 April, 2010
Al-Fayed claims in no uncertain terms that he is not looking to sell Harrods to prospective buyers, saying: “I put two fingers up to them all. It is not for sale.”
● 8 May, 2010
The sale of Harrods to the Qatari royal family is confirmed, netting Al-Fayed in excess of £1.5bn.