The ownership of Harrods, the famous London department store, has changed. The store, which has been owned by Egyptian business Tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed since 1985, has switched hands to Qatar Holding which is owned by the Qatari Royal Family for £1.5 billion or $ 2.2 billion.
Qatar Holding was apparently chosen because of its vow to maintain the traditions of Harrods. Al Fayed said he received many offers from Gulf-based suitors over the last few months. “People approach from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. Fair enough, but I put two fingers up to them all. It is not for sale. It is not Marks & Spencer or Sainsbury. It is a special place that gives people pleasure. There is only one Mecca,” said Al Fayed in a recent article with The Times. Al Fayed, who also owns Fulham Football Club, has nevertheless changed his mind. He’d like to retire and spend more time with his family.
Founded in 1834 by Charles Henry Harrod, the renowned British department store has seen the likes of Sigmund Freud, Oscar Wilde and countless other celebrities walk through its doors. It sells the designs of Christian Dior, RobertoCavalli, and Marc Jacobs among others. It also has a food hall and a tea room complete with La Durée from Paris. Last year Harrods began selling gold bars and coins for the first time. Harrods first opened its legendary Knightsbridge store in 1849. Al Fayed purchased it in 1985 for £615 Million. He has since invested around £400 million including £75 for an Egyptian-themed escalator flanked with sphinxes. Al Fayed’s son Dodi died in a car crash in Paris with Princess Diana in 1997.
And so the famed department store passes to the hands of another Middle Eastern owner. Qatar Holding handles investments for Qatari royals. It will become the fifth owner of the British Department store. While the sale is a big one, what is noteworthy is the need to find the right buyer, one who can uphold Harrod’s principles and traditions, hopefully the Qatari’s will prove faithful.