The Rise and Fall of Adnan Khashoggi
Back in the 1970s and 80s Adnan Khashoggi was in the news on a weekly if not a daily basis. Rumor had it that the weapons trader turned deal-maker was one of the richest men on earth. At first the media covered him because of his luxurious lifestyle of private jets, big yachts, glamorous women, and hobnobbing with royalty. Then he became associated with the Iran-Contra and Lockheed scandals. After that he went on the decline.
Adnan was not the type of deal-maker we normally cover here. He was much more of a schmoozer than asset accumulator. His talent lay in bringing different parties together for the purpose of collaborating in business deals. If a deal was done Adnan received a handsome commission.
Adnan Khashoggi was never the richest man in the world, ever, but he flaunted the myth that he was with such relentless perseverance and public-relations know-how that most of the world believed him. The power of great wealth is awesome. If you have enough money, you can bamboozle anyone. Even if you can create the illusion that you have enough money you can bamboozle anyone, as Adnan Khashoggi did over and over again. He understood high visibility better than the most shameless Hollywood press agent, and he made himself one of the most famous names of our time. Who doesn’t know about his yachts, his planes, his dozen houses, his wives, his hookers, his gifts, his parties, his friendships with movie stars and jet-set members, and his companionship with kings and world leaders? His dazzling existence outshone even that of his prime benefactors in the royal family of Saudi Arabia—a bedazzlement that led to their eventual disaffection for him.
I found this bit from Donald Trump particularly interesting:
A story that Trump frequently tells is about his purchase of Khashoggi’s yacht, the 282-foot, $70 million Nabila, thought to be the most opulent private vessel afloat. In addition to the inevitable discotheque, with laser beams that projected Khashoggi’s face, the floating palace also had an operating room and a morgue, with coffins. Forced to sell it for a mere $30 million, Khashoggi did not want Trump to keep the name Nabila, because it was his daughter’s name. Trump had no intention, ever, of keeping the name. He had already decided to rename it the Trump Princess. But for some reason Khashoggi thought Trump meant to retain the name, and he knocked a million dollars off the asking price to ensure the name change. Trump accepted the deduction.
“Khashoggi was a great broker and a lousy businessman,” Trump said to me that night. “He understood the art of bringing people together and putting together a deal better than almost anyone—all the bullshitting part, of talk and entertainment—but he never knew how to invest his money. If he had put his commissions into a bank in Switzerland, he’d be a rich man today, but he invested it, and he made lousy choices.”
For anyone interested here’s a rather lengthy Vanity Fair article on Khashoggi’s rise and fall. It’s the source of both of the above quotes.