Industry: Politics & Economics
Country: Saudi Arabia
Wealth: 1.1 Billion
Born in Mecca in 1935, billionaire arms dealer and businessman Adnan Khashoggi is a larger-than-life figure infamous for his involvement in a string of scandals and set-tos, from the Iran-Contra Affair to one of the largest divorce settlements in history.
The son of Muhammed Khashoggi, a medical doctor and HRH King Abdel Aziz Al Saud’s personal physician, Adnan was educated at Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt, California State University, Chico, Ohio State University, and Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, US. His true calling, however, was not academia. It was making money, winning friends and influencing some very powerful people.
Khashoggi brokered a succession of arms deals between Saudi and the US, throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The big hitters in his rolodex included defence contractors Lockheed Corporation (now Lockheed Martin Corporation), Raytheon, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation and Northrop Corporation (which have now merged into Northrop Grumman), all of whom Khashoggi handled through front companies based in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
By the 1980s, Khashoggi was considered the richest man in the world, pulling strings from his yacht, the Nabila. It was, naturally, the largest yacht in the world, and even featured in the James Bond adventure
Never Say Never Again
. At the start of the decade he had split from his English wife, Soraya; her payout was estimated to be as much as half a billion dollars. And Khashoggi’s sister Samira, was the mother of Dodi Al Fayed, friend of the late Princess Diana.
The glory years were not to last. Khashoggi was implicated in the Iran-Contra Affair as a middleman in the arms-for-hostages exchange, along with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar. He was also found to have borrowed money for the arms purchases from the now-bankrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).
Arrested in Switzerland in 1988 on charges of concealing funds, Khashoggi was extradited to the US, but acquitted. Two years later, Khashoggi won in court again when he and Imelda Marcos, widow of the exiled Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, were cleared of racketeering and fraud by a federal jury in Manhattan.
Today, Khashoggi lives a low-key existence in Monaco. Gone are the ostentatious trappings that characterised his life in the 1960s and 1970s.
And gone, too, is the Khashoggi Centre at American University; when Khashoggi defaulted on his donation pledge, the school removed his name from the building.
And yet even as the Khashoggi star fades, the legend grows. “Doing well is the result of doing good,” he once said. “That’s what capitalism is all about.”
Looking back over his colourful career, the man from Mecca might concede that he has just about covered the good, the bad and the ugly of international powerbroking.