Saudi tycoon who built a 'billionaire's nest' in Kenya dies


Adnan Khashoggi, former Ol Pejeta Ranch owner. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A tycoon who popularised Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club and Khashoggi House as ‘billionaires’ nests’ and once rated amongst the world’s richest has died.

Adnan Khashoggi, fondly referred to as AK by his family, died in London at 81 while undergoing treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

He shot to infamy when he was linked to the Iran-Contra arms scandal in the 1980s where Tehran, still under UN embargo, was armed by US to fund Nicaraguan rebels.

A family statement described Mr Khashoggi as a pioneer who achieved global recognition through his extraordinary business achievements.

“He combined commercial acumen with an overriding loyalty to his country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His work always furthered the interests of his country,” the family said.

Mr Khashoggi acquired Mount Kenya Safari Club in 1967 and later bought another property, Ol Pejeta Ranch, where he spent $7.5 million (Sh750 million at current exchange rates) on his four-bedroom private getaway, Khashoggi House.

adnan khashoggi

The "billionaire's nest" house in Ol Pejeta that Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi built in 1978. Khashoggi died in London on Tuesday, June, 6, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Mr Khashoggi’s exploits elevated Laikipia’s stature as a pristine wildlife-rich hinterland where he hosted lavish parties for visiting heads of state, royal family members and billionaires.

This saw billionaires buy ranches in Laikipia and develop exclusive high-end resorts, making it the plaground for the rich.

The Saudi Arabian national once estimated to be worth $4 billion was a close associate of former President Daniel arap Moi and would fly directly into Kenya in a private jet to his Laikipia Ranch forcing customs officials to drive from Nairobi to the ranch to clear his entourage.

READ: The house that Khashoggi built

AK reportedly lost Ol Pejeta to Lonrho Hotels’ Tiny Rowland during a poker game but Lonrho Hotels would later dispose of the property to a UK Charity, Flora and Fauna International, who handed it over to a Kenyan trust for management as a conservancy for posterity.

He bequeathed Mount Kenya Safari Club to his son on his 18th birthday as a present. It is currently managed by Saudi Fairmont Hotels while Mr Khashoggi’s house is leased to TPS East Africa #ticker:TPSE by the trust.

Khashoggi House has four bedrooms, all en suite with walk-in dressing rooms, two lounges, dining room, living room, two private swimming pools — one for the visitors and the other for the owners — with large balconies that provide excellent game viewing.

The Stanford University-educated arms dealer brokered deals with governments, weapon makers and private clients across the globe earning him hefty kickbacks that enabled him to lead a lavish globe-trotting life.