Here's How Dodi Fayed's Family Made Their Staggering Fortune

When he began dating Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, Dodi Fayed went from obscure millionaire playboy to tabloid superstar. Diana and Dodi weren't together long before their tragic and untimely deaths in a Parisian tunnel. However, their brief romance sparked intrigue and controversy, with many questioning the origins of Dodi's family's mysterious fortune.

Dodi's father, Mohamed Al-Fayed, came from a poor and humble background, about as far as you can get from the lavish lifestyle he would later enjoy. Mohamed was one of five children born to an impoverished teacher in Egypt. After leaving school, he engaged in many lowly, poorly paid jobs, including hawking lemonade on the streets of Alexandria and selling sewing machines door to door.

However, despite his working-class roots, Mohamed was obsessed with the British nobility and dreamed of becoming a part of high society one day. His vision of being welcomed by the notoriously stuffy and closed-minded aristocracy never materialized, despite Mohamed managing to amass a staggering fortune. According to Forbes, he was worth a cool $2 billion at the time of his death in August 2023. Mohamed's riches materialized after he moved to the UK in the mid-1960s. They resulted in him purchasing Fulham Football Club, which he sold to Shahid Khan for $300 million and change. He also bought the Paris Ritz Hotel and Harrods, which Qatar purchased for an estimated $2.4 billion. But there's always been a cloak of secrecy around how Mohamed became so wealthy.

Shady Sultans and arms dealers

Mohamed Al-Fayed dreamed of being accepted into the high and mighty British aristocracy. However, as he learned the hard way, the nobles aren't fans of "new money" or flashy displays of wealth, two things that Mohamed was synonymous with. The nobles also aren't fans of scandals, controversies, and problematic monetary gains. Their own multiple transgressions can be forgiven and rapidly forgotten. Still, when it's an outsider's, especially a foreign-born one, all bets are off. And the story behind Mohamed amassing his staggering fortune is definitely subject to controversy.

So, how did a lowly street seller from Alexandria, Egypt, end up owning the British establishment and symbol of ludicrous wealth, Harrods, in addition to multiple other treasures? The jury's out on all the details, but some are available. The BBC reports that Mohamed's rapid rise to fortune started in the 1970s when he began working for Adnan Khashoggi's Saudi Arabian import business. The "import/export" business was definitely on the side of shady, making Khashoggi one of the wealthiest arms dealers of the 20th century.

According to the BBC, Mohamed started a shipping company in Egypt from his Khashoggi gains. He became an advisor to the Sultan of Brunei. Business Insider reports that the Sultan, who later introduced a law that homosexuals should be stoned to death and paid $20,000 per haircut, was the wealthiest man in the world, worth an estimated $40 billion. Which makes Mohamed's measly $2 billion look like chump change.

Always an outsider

The circles that Mohamed Al-Fayed mixed in added yet further to his problematic background. The Telegraph reports that he posed as a Kuwaiti sheik to befriend the Haitian dictator, François "Papa Doc" Duvalier. However, the two fell out after Mohamed swindled him out of £153,000 ($193,000), and Duvalier ordered his notorious Tonton Macoute death squad to return him "dead or alive."

Poor Mohamed could not get a break. Not surprisingly, the nobles were not impressed when Dodi Fayed began dating Diana, Princess of Wales. As the son of a multi-billionaire, Dodi could have probably bought Downton Abbey 100,000 times over. The Sun reports Mohamed paid Dodi a £400,000-a-month allowance (roughly $504,000). So, Dodi definitely did not need to work a paper route growing up. According to The Guardian, Dodi purchased what was believed to be an engagement ring for Diana just hours before their fatal crash in Paris. Diamond expert Mike Fried of the Diamond Pro told Nicki Swift that Dodi's ring for Diana would be worth around $100,000 today. But his massive fortune didn't impress the elites.

Even though Dodi and Diana were reportedly about to become engaged, Mohamed still remained persona non-grata in royal circles. Even worse, The Los Angeles Times reports that he was denied British citizenship twice, despite his numerous attempts to woo the royals. Mohamed even bought and restored Edward, Duke of Windsor's house, and gifted it to the royals. But, he was still treated with disdain.