In Search of Inspiration: Sol Kerzner

Sol Kerzner

Sol Kerzner

By Spence Finlayson

NASSAU, Bahamas – March 21st, 2020 will go down in history as the day that the one and only visionary businessman and hotelier Sol Kerzner died.

I only had the privilege of meeting him on one occasion in Nassau at his Atlantis Resort & Casino. I had written an article in the Nassau Guardian about him being a real visionary in my opinion. I have always been blessed to meet key personalities during my lifetime, people like John H Johnson founder of Ebony and Jet Magazines , Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis , Stevie Wonder, Jim Brown, Don Cornelius, William S. Paley, Founder of CBS , Zig Ziglar and Eric Dickerson,  Butch Stewart,  Billionaire Michael V. Roberts, Shaggy, Allison Hinds , Luciano , Eddie Levert of the O’Jays, Otis Williams, Richard Street, Melvin Franklin, Ali Ollie Woodson and Ron Tyson of Motown’s Temptations  just to name a few.

And so I go to visit the Atlantis and decided to have lunch in a restaurant off from the Casino. When I looked up there was Sol Kerzner along with one of his Bahamian hotel executives Barry Farrington, leaving and I decide to introduce myself to him. I got up from my table and called his name and he stopped and turn around to see who was calling his name.

I said my name is Spence Finlayson sir and I just wrote an article in the local newspapers about you on vision. He said ‘oh my wow, from the time I have been in the Bahamas, this is the first time someone has said something good about me”.  He shook my hand and continued chatting with me as he headed to the executive offices of the Hotel.

In the article I spoke about him being a true visionary, particularly recreating the lost city of Atlantis in The Bahamas at Paradise Island. He single handedly change our tourism industry with his hotel and casino that attracted millions of people. I believed in him and he inspired me continuously. So as we go in search of inspiration today, we don’t have to look very far, but right to Solomon Kerzner.

Solomon (Sol) Kerzner was born august 23rd 1935. He is a South African accountant and business magnate. Kerzner was born in Troyeville, Johannesburg, the youngest of four children to Jewish Russian immigrants.

His family started a hotel chain; after Kerzner graduated with a B.Com (Accounting), B.Com (Hons) (Accounting)) from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and qualified as a Chartered Accountant, he took over the running of the group and went on to create the most successful hotel group in South Africa, Sun International.

He is now the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Kerzner International and his career spans more than 45 years in the resort industry. He founded both of South Africa’s largest hotel groups, Southern Sun Hotel Group.

His parents owned and operated a chain of kosher hotels. Kerzner graduated with a degree in accounting and then took control of the family company. In 1962, he purchased the Astra Hotel in Durban.

Following the success of that property, Kerzner built South Africa’s first five star graded hotel in Umhlanga, a village north of Durban – he opened this resort in December 1964 which he named the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Following the Beverly Hills, Kerzner built the 450-room Elangeni Hotel (now renamed Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani), overlooking Durban’s beachfront and, in 1969, in partnership with South African Breweries, he established the chain of Southern Sun Hotels, which by 1983 operated 30 luxury hotels with more than 7,000 rooms. In 1975, Kerzner opened his first hotel outside South Africa on the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius which he named Le Saint Géran.

In 1979 Kerzner developed Sun City, the most ambitious resort project in Africa. Over a period of ten years he built four hotels, a man-made lake, two Gary Player designed championship golf courses and entertainment center with an indoor 6,000-seat multi-purpose arena in which he presented many superstars including Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli and Shirley Bassey and which was also the venue of many World Title fights promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank organisation.

During 1985, Kerzner’s Sun City, South Africa resort was the topic of anti-Apartheid rock album titled Sun City by a group of rock musicians calling themselves Artists United Against Apartheid.

In 1994, following the first multiracial elections in South Africa, Kerzner was asked by incoming President Nelson Mandela to arrange the VIP function at the Presidential Inauguration, which was attended by approximately a thousand people, including many of the world’s leaders and heads of state.

In 1996, Kerzner opened the hugely successful Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Connecticut in the United States and in 2000 opened the second phase of the project including a 1,200-room hotel through a joint venture with the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut called Trading Cove Associates.

TCA relinquished its management of the resort in 2002 but Kerzner through his company will still receive a 5% dividend on the gross revenue generated by Mohegan Sun until 2014. The property is one of the largest gaming and entertainment complexes in the United States.

As a result of the success of the Sun City resort with its Gary Player Country Club golf course (ranked number 1 in South Africa) he got involved in international hotel, leisure and gambling resorts; most notable is his role as the innovative developer behind the well-known Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

In late 1994, Kerzner made his first major acquisition outside Africa through the purchase of the Paradise Island Resort in The Bahamas. This 1,150-room resort was in bankruptcy at the time. After acquiring the resort, Kerzner launched a major re-development and expansion program which transformed Atlantis, Paradise Island into a 2,300-room resort that included one of the world’s largest man-made marine habitats and the Caribbean’s biggest casino.

In 2002, Kerzner launched One & Only Resorts which currently operates seven properties in The Bahamas, Mexico, Mauritius, The Maldives, South Africa, Dubai and Hayman Island.

In early 2007, Kerzner expanded Atlantis, Paradise Island with new hotels The Cove and The Reef which added 1,100 new rooms to the property. This expansion included 21 retail outlets and new restaurants by celebrity chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Nobu Matsuhisa and Bobby Flay. Kerzner extended the Atlantis brand globally with the development of Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, with 1,500-room, water-themed resort opened in late-September 2008 on The Palm Jumeirah – a multibillion-dollar leisure and residential development in Dubai.

In October 2013, Kerzner announced that it is building a new Atlantis hotel at Sanya, Hainan Island in China with China’s Fosun International Ltd. The 62-hectare resort will have 1,300 rooms and a water park like the other Atlantis hotels. The project will cost $1.63 billion.

Kerzner has been married four times. His first wife was Maureen Adler; they had three children. His second wife was Shirley Bestbier; they had two children. She later committed suicide. His third wife, Miss World 1974 Anneline Kriel, ended in divorce after five years. During a lengthy period in the 1990s, he dated the model Christina Estrada, got engaged, but never married her. He married his fourth wife, model Heather Murphy in 2000; they divorced in 2011.

Sol’s son, Howard (Butch) Kerzner died on 11 October 2006 when the helicopter he was travelling in crashed near Sosua, in the Puerto Plata province of the Dominican Republic.

 

Spence Finlayson

Spence Finlayson

 

Spence M. Finlayson, Bahamian-born, world renowned motivational speaker and corporate trainer is the President & CEO of the Phoenix Institute for Positive Development & Empowerment based in Nassau, Bahamas. He is the creator & host of In Search of Inspiration TV Show which airs in 26 Caribbean countries and the United Kingdom. For speaking engagements he can be reached by email at phoenixinstitute@gmail.com or visit his website at www.thephoenixempowerment.com

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