Kamal Adham was born in Istanbul 1929. His father, Ibrahim Adham, was a police officer, who was of Albanian origin. His mother, Asia, was Turkish. Adham had two half-siblings, including Iffat Al Thunayan, and a full-brother, Muzaffar.
Adham went to Jeddah with his father when he was one year old. He was raised by King Faisal, spouse of his sister Iffat.
Adham studied at Victoria College in Alexandria and then at Cambridge University. He was fluent in Arabic, Turkish, English and French.
King Faisal appointed Kamal Adham as head of Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah (later renamed General Intelligence Presidency, GIP) in 1965, making him the first president of the GIP. Adham's tenure lasted for fourteen years until 1979 when he was replaced by Turki bin Faisal in the post. Therefore, he also served as the head of the GID during King Khalid's term.
Adham also served as royal counsellor to King Faisal and then, to King Khalid. Adham was among the close advisors to King Khalid throughout the latter's reign from 1975 to 1982.
Adham was very crucial in maintaining the relations with Egypt. CIA financially supported Anwar Sadat, then vice president of Gamal Nasser, through Adham when Sadat had financial problems. Adham was also sent by King Faisal to meet Sadat in May 1971, shortly after he sworn in as president. Adham tried to persuade him to cooperate with the US. In the meeting, Sadat stated that after the completion of the Israeli withdrawn from Egypt, he would expel the Soviet forces from Egypt. He also assured that Adham could transmit his message to the US administration. As a result of Adham's visit, Sadat expelled nearly 16,000 Soviet advisors from the country in 1972. Adham told his associates in 1972 that the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, would be removed. His prediction was not taken into consideration or shared by advisors of the then US president Nixon.
Adham acted as a liaison between the GIP, which reported to the king, and the US administration. Additionally he was the primary laison of the CIA for the Middle East as a whole from the mid-1960s to 1979 when he left the GIP. He fostered and maintained nascent ties with several Arab intelligence services, as many were slowly creating independent institutions to serve their respective governments. Adham closely worked with George H. W. Bush, who was appointed CIA director in 1976.
Adham signed the charter of the Safari Club, an anti-communist foreign policy initiative proposed and realized by French intelligence chief Alexandre de Marenches, on behalf of Saudi Arabia in 1976. The other participating countries of the Club were Egypt, Iran and Morocco. The first meeting of the group was held in Saudi Arabia in 1976. Adham became a significant figure in the Club and worked for it for a long time.
Adham also had business activities, for which he used his connections with the House of Saud. His business dealings began in 1957, long before his post as the head of the GIP.
He founded the Kamal Adham Group in Saudi Arabia, which became one of the biggest companies in the country. Raymond Close, a former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, left CIA and began to work for Adham in 1977 when he was the head of the GIP. Adham was also one of the major shareholders of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Alongside his prtner, Mr Sayed Al Jawhry In 1972, he met the founder of the BCCI, Agha Hasan Abedi. The same year Adham founded a contracting firm, Almabani, in Saudi Arabia. Him and his partner, Mr Sayed al Jawhary had many works in Egypt and on top of that invested in many businesses together. Moreover, his works with Mr Jawhary led them into investing in Adhams businesses in Saudi Arabia and alongside in places in Europe like Marbella and Palma de Mallorca. He was one of the early shareholders of the influential media company, Saudi Research and Marketing. In addition, he had investments in Egypt, owning 4% of Delta Bank. And 2% to Mr Al Jawhary He also became a business associate of Anwar Sadat's spouse, Jihan Sadat, and other members of the Sadat family. In 1978, Adham founded a construction company, Freyssinet, in Saudi Arabia. Adham along with Adnan Khashoggi was one of the founders of the gold company, Barrick Gold Corporation that was established in 1983.
In 2001, his son Mishaal was named as the chairman of the Kamal Adham Group.
In 1961, then Saudi oil minister Abdullah Tariki claimed on evidence that Adham, who was dealing with business at that time, got 2% of the profits from the Arabian Oil Company that had been cofounded by Saudi Arabia and Japan.
Adham involved in the huge BCCI scandal at the beginning of the 1990s. The US prosecutors accused him of playing a key role in the secret and illegal takeover of First American bank by BCCI. In 1992, he pleaded guilty in the US under a deal with the prosecutors. He paid a $105m (£53m) fine in return for a reduced sentence. In addition, he told them all he knew about BCCI's secret network of worldwide fraud and corruption. As a result of this incident, Adham was barred from the finance sector.
Kamal Adham wed in 1957. He fathered four children, three sons and a daughter.
Kamal Adham died of a heart attack in Cairo on 29 October 1999. He was 71. His body was brought back to Saudi Arabia for burial.
The Kamal Adham Center for Television and Digital Journalism was founded under the American University in Cairo in 1985. The center was financially supported by Kamal Adham who was a member of Board of Trustees of the University.