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The charitable side of ... Mohamed Al Fayed

Gemma Ware

Harrods stays mum over its charitable giving, while the boss's generous donations have declined.

Within the first hour of the Harrods sale, all the Gucci shoes in the ladies department had sold out and two customers had had a brawl over a Ralph Lauren jacket. Any leftover charitable Christmas goodwill was well and truly trampled in the stampede of bargain-hungry shoppers.

And if Harrods itself does anything charitable to mark its annual sale, it ain't telling anyone. The Knightsbridge landmark does make donations to children's charities, but a spokesman refused to disclose how much.

But a quick look into the giving history of Al Fayed, the multimillionaire who has owned the store since 1985, reveals he has been a generous donor to children's charities. The Egyptian-born businessman, who also owns Fulham FC, is notorious for a string of failed attempts to gain British citizenship and some high-profile libel cases. However, he has given away millions of his £660m fortune, and in 1987 he established the Al Fayed Charitable Foundation to manage his donations.

The foundation's main beneficiaries are children's charities and hospices for disabled and neglected children in Britain, but it also supports orphanages in Thailand and Mongolia. Among the names are Francis House Hospice in Manchester, Great Ormond Street Hospital and ChildLine. In 1998, Al Fayed bought Princess Diana's old boarding school in Kent and helped found the New School at West Heath for traumatised children there.

But since Al Fayed moved to Switzerland in 2003, the foundation's spending has more than halved. In 2000, according to the Charity Commission, foundation expenditure was £896,170; in 2004 it was £429,313.

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