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Sunday, July 26, 1998 Published at 08:11 GMT 09:11 UK


Tiny Rowland dies at 80

Tiny Rowland: A colourful figure

BBC correspondent Damian Grammaticas describes the tycoon
The multi-millionaire businessman Roland 'Tiny' Rowland has died aged 80.

The tycoon made his fortune in the mines of Africa before moving to Britain and buying the Observer newspaper.

Tiny Rowland's Lonrho conglomerate became one of Britain's biggest companies, but he was defeated in a battle with Mohamed al-Fayed to acquire the Harrods department store.

BBC correspondent Simon Cox: "A figure rarely far from controversy"
He spent much of the rest of his career pursuing a feud with Mr al-Fayed.

A friend of the Rowland family told The Observer that he died on Saturday morning surrounded by his family at a London clinic. Sources close to the family later confirmed this to the BBC.

He had been suffering from skin cancer.

'Jibe stuck'

The then-Prime Minister, Ted Heath, referred to his company in the early 1970s as the "unacceptable face of British capitalism" because of its attempt to avoid tax.

The label soon stuck to Mr Rowland himself.

Donald Trelford: "His achievements will be overshadowed by this picturesque and quaint feud"
The former editor of the Observer, Donald Trelford, who worked with Mr Rowland for several years, called him one of the most remarkable and beguiling people in British life since World War II.

"He had a vision of Africa and its potential resources that was like Cecil Rhodes," he said.

But Mr Trelford added that after building up a huge conglomerate, "he virtually destroyed it by his single-minded obsession about getting Harrods".

Lonrho tried to persuade the government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the al-Fayeds' acquisition of the store.

The al-Fayeds' accused the Observer newspaper, under the ownership of Tiny Rowland's Lonrho, of conducting a concerted campaign against them.

[ image: The bitter feud between the two tycoons dominated the headlines]
The bitter feud between the two tycoons dominated the headlines
Although, five years ago, the two warring tycoons appeared to make it up with warm embraces in the Harrods' food hall, Tiny Rowland's vendetta against Mr al-Fayed was estimated to have cost him some £20m.

And the acrimony endured. Tiny Rowland last year alleged that private documents were stolen from a safe deposit box in Harrods.

Last week the police decided there were no grounds for bringing any charges in the case.

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