A jury recommended in May that James Fayed be put to death for hiring a man to stab Pamela Fayed in a Century City parking garage. On Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy agreed, calling the murder cold-blooded, vicious and brutal.
Kennedy heard emotional testimony from family members.
"He has committed the ultimate betrayal of all to his children. He has killed their mother," said Scott Goudie, brother of the victim.
Pamela Fayed, 45, was fatally stabbed 13 times in a Century City parking lot in July 2008. Prosecutors said James Fayed paid one of his employees and three gang members $25,000 to kill his wife.
"That is one cold, calculated human being, Mr. James Fayed," Kennedy said in court.
The judge recounted chilling details of the stabbing attack. Security cameras showed crowds responding to her screams, but James Fayed, who was nearby, did nothing.
"Totally immune to the cries and screams of his wife, the mother of his child. Chilling," Kennedy said.
Kennedy ordered James Fayed to San Quentin's death row and said greed was the motivating factor in the murder-for-hire plot. The two were going through a bitter divorce at the time, and he feared his wife would cooperate with a federal investigation into their international gold trading business and get half of the couple's marital assets.
Damning evidence came from a secret recording of James Fayed in jail. He was angry that three accomplices bungled the job, leading to his capture.
"I wanted to do it myself. I wish I could have done it myself, but I knew I would get caught," James Fayed said in the recording.
The defense argued that to sentence James Fayed to death would be meaningless in state that has a backlog of inmates on death row.
"We are not Texas. We are not Alabama. We are not a state that actually kills people once we condemn them to death. They sit and sit and sit," said defense attorney Steve Meister.
Goudie said the penalty is just.
"We will spend the rest of our lives picking up the pieces and trying to move on," he said.
Kennedy rejected a defense motion for a new trial.
The three men charged in the killing are awaiting trial separately. The alleged killer, Steven Vicente Simmons, 22; the alleged getaway driver, Jose Luis Moya, 51; and the alleged lookout, Gabriel Jay Marquez, 46, each face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.