Section: Chronicle Page 1
Section: World News
Section: Special Reports

1:56 PM 5/21/1998

Mohamed Al Fayed buys Diana's former school

LONDON (AP) -- Mohamed Al Fayed, whose son Dodi was killed in the Paris car crash that claimed the life of Princess Diana, spent $4 million Wednesday to buy the boarding school where the princess once was a student.

Al Fayed said he wanted to turn West Heath School, closed last year because of falling attendance, into a specialized school for traumatized children.

He said the new school would be "a living memorial" to the princess and his son. He criticized trustees of the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fund for not providing money for the school.

"I am surprised that the Princess Diana memorial fund, with all its millions in the bank, did not show a greater interest in this project," Al Fayed said in a statement. "I believe it to be a far more fitting tribute to her work than putting her name on tasteless souvenirs."

The fund has been criticized for allowing sponsorship of products like teddy bears and margarine tubs.

Al Fayed, owner of Harrods department store in London and the Hotel Ritz in Paris, said he would spend an additional $960,000 in equipping the school, near Sevenoaks in southeast England.

It will help children from Britain and abroad who are unable to benefit from normal schooling due to physical or sexual abuse, long-term illnesses, eating disorders, learning difficulties or drug problems.