Egyptian-born businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed has sold prestigious London department store Harrods to the investment vehicle of the Qatar royal family in a deal reported to be worth around 1.5 billion pounds ($2.3 billion).
A spokesman for Lazard, which advised the Fayed family trust, declined to confirm the value of the deal which was reported by Sky News, citing unnamed sources.
Qatar Holding is the prime vehicle for strategic and direct investments by the State of Qatar. It is an arm of Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), which was founded by the State of Qatar in 2005 to strengthen its economy by diversifying into new asset classes.
"What I can assure you is Qatar Holding will do their best to upgrade this monument, to make it even greater and better for the tourism and the British people," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told reporters in an impromptu news conference in the store in London's Knightsbridge area.
Al Fayed, 77, is retiring as chairman of Harrods and believed Qatar Holding would continue to promote it as one of the world's foremost brands, Lazard International chairman Ken Costa said in the statement.
"After 25 years as chairman of Harrods, Mohamed Al Fayed has decided to retire and to spend more time with his children and grandchildren," Costa said.
"He has built Harrods into a unique luxury brand with worldwide recognition" and wanted to ensure this legacy would continue, he added.
"Qatar Holdings was specifically chosen by the Trust as they had both the vision and financial capacity to support the long term successful growth of Harrods."
Fayed, who also owns English soccer club Fulham, bought Harrods in 1985 for about 615 million pounds at a time when the group also owned the House of Fraser department store chain, which was later spun off.
A colorful figure, Fayed waged a long campaign claiming his son Dodi and Princess Diana, who died together in a Paris car crash in 1997, were murdered in a conspiracy.
Qatar Holding will be the fifth owner of Harrods since its creation in 1840. Credit Suisse advised it on the deal.