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Fayed The Elder: At The Center

Many strands in this tragic, complex story end up at the feet of Mohamed Al-Fayed, the wealthy businessman who is Dodi Fayed's father.

Many commentators believe that Fayed engineered the meeting between Dodi and Diana in an attempt to gain entrée into British society. Fayed, an old friend of Diana's father, invited the princess to stay on his yacht. It was there that she met Dodi.

Remembering A Princess: takes a look at Diana's legacy. Learn about how her two sons have fared over the past year, and how the Royal Family has changed since Diana's death. Find out more.

Born in Egypt, the son of an Alexandria schoolteacher, Fayed rose to become a billionaire. He started off selling sewing machines, and eventually went to work for businessman Adnan Khashoggi. As Khashoggi, who was himself on the way to becoming an infamous arms dealer, grew wealthier, Fayed rose too. Eventually, he married Khashoggi's sister. Although that marriage did not last long, it produced a son, Emad, better known as Dodi.

Fayed, 68, leaped into real wealth by taking advantage of the '60s oil boom, becoming a broker who worked to bring together British companies and Middle Eastern honchos. At some point, many observers say, he became enamored with becoming a British citizen. In 1985, he bought Harrods, the famed British department store. Among his other possessions are a Scottish castle, the Paris villa that was the French home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and the Paris Ritz Hotel, which Fayed restored at great cost.

Mohamed Al Fayed.

Although he owned several English cultural landmarks, Fayed's request for citizenship was denied. In part, a British government report on the matter said, this was because he lied about his background and finances when he had applied to buy Harrods. He had claimed to be a member of an old Egyptian establishment family. The British report disagreed. The report also said that the money Fayed used to buy Harrods, more than $300 million, came not from his own accounts but from those of the Sultan of Brunei.

Many observers also pointed to latent British racism and snobbery to explain the refusal. Angry at the perceived slight, Fayed revealed that he had given cash and free room and board at the Ritz to several prominent British politicians. The resulting scandal forced several to resign.

Fayed's dream of acceptance appeared to be alive again when his son and Diana began their romance. When they died tragically in the Alma tunnel, however, his hopes diminished greatly. Ironically, the driver of the car, Henri Paul, was a employee of the Ritz Hotel. On top of that, French authorities say that Paul was drunk at the time of the accident, which may conceivably mean that Fayed is liable for the accident.

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