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Friday, February 20, 1998 Published at 18:40 GMT


Cole steps down as Harrods spokesman

The former BBC royal correspondent Michael Cole is stepping down as spokesperson for Harrods and its owner Mohamed Al Fayed.

He is taking early retirement from his post of director of public affairs.

Mr Cole became a household name in recent months as he handled the massive publicity surrounding the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and the tycoon's son Dodi.

Tycoon's tribute

Mr Al Fayed paid tribute to him, saying: "Michael has provided invaluable support to me and my family and of course to Harrods over the past 10 years."

The Egyptian tycoon added: "I am pleased to count him amongst my staunchest friends.

[ image: Mohammed al Fayed]
Mohammed al Fayed
"He has served both me and the company loyally and with the highest degree of professionalism. We all wish him a happy retirement."

A spokesperson for the store said it was unaware Mr Cole had any plans to work elsewhere.

Mr Cole added: "Although I leave with much sadness, it has always been my intention to retire at 55.

"I have made many lasting friendships, particularly with Mohamed Al Fayed and his family, and enjoyed being so closely involved in the growth and development of Harrods.

"There is no doubt that it is now the greatest store in the world and I leave the company in the continued ownership of a man for whom I have the utmost respect and regard."

Lightning conductor

Mr Cole came under severe pressure during the massive publicity following the deaths of Dodi and Diana in a Paris car crash on August 31.

In the difficult days following their deaths he admitted: "I was the lightning conductor."

A Harrods spokesperson added that Mr Cole's retirement had already taken effect, although his 55th birthday would not be until March 6.

She said there had been no falling out. "We don't want to go into the specifics of when he left but it has already taken effect.

"His decision to retire at 55 was taken years ago and although it has been a very busy year, that does not have anything to do with it.

"Mr Cole's departure has been entirely amicable. He will be back in March for a leaving party and Mr Al Fayed will be hosting it."

Leaked Queen's Speech

In his previous career as BBC royal correspondent, he entered the headlines himself in 1987 when he accidentally revealed some of the contents of the Queen's Speech before it was broadcast on Christmas day.


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