Sol Kerzner

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Sol Kerzner
Born(1935-08-23)23 August 1935
Johannesburg, South Africa
Died21 March 2020(2020-03-21) (aged 84)
Cape Town, South Africa
NationalitySouth African
Alma materUniversity of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg B.Com (Accounting), B.Com (Hons) (Accounting)
OccupationFounder and Chairman of Kerzner International
Spouse(s)Maureen Adler
Shirley Bestbier (deceased)
Anneline Kriel (1980–1985)
Heather Murphy (2000–2011)
Childrenwith Adler:
--Howard "Butch" Kerzner
--Andrea Kerzner
--Beverly Kerzner Mace
with Bestbier:
--Brandon Kerzner
--Chantal Kerzner Sweeney

Solomon Kerzner KCMG (23 August 1935 – 21 March 2020) was a South African accountant and business magnate. He founded both of South Africa's largest hotel groups, the Southern Sun Hotel Group and Sun International. He was also the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Kerzner International. His career spanned more than 45 years in the resort industry. After Kerzner graduated with a B.Com (Accounting) and B.Com (Hons) (Accounting) from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and qualified as a Chartered Accountant,[1] he took over the running of his family's hotel chain.

Background and career[edit]

College and early career[edit]

Kerzner graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg with a BCom accounting degree as well as BCom (Hons) in Accounting and then took control of the family company.[2] 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.

Sun City[edit]

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 at which he presented many superstars including Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Queen and Shirley Bassey.[3][4] The arena was also the venue of many World Title fights promoted by Bob Arum. In 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.

Mohegan Sun[edit]

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 received a 5% dividend on the gross revenue generated by Mohegan Sun until 2014. The property is one of the largest gambling and entertainment complexes in the United States.

Late career[edit]

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 notably for his role as the developer behind the well-known Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. In that capacity 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 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 eight properties in The Bahamas, Mexico, Mauritius, The Maldives, South Africa, Dubai and Hayman Island. New projects by the firm are also planned for China, Montenegro, and Saudi Arabia.

In early 2007, Kerzner expanded Atlantis, Paradise Island with 2 new hotels; The Cove, and The Reef, which added 1,100 new rooms to the property. This expansion which was overseen by Alan Leibman, which 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 September 2009, the "Mazagan Beach Resort" a luxury hotel in El Jadida, Morocco, was inaugurated by Kerzner himself accompanied by show business many celebrities.

In October 2013, Kerzner announced that he was building a new Atlantis hotel at Sanya, Hainan Island in China with China's Fosun International. The 62-hectare resort has 1,300 rooms and a water park like the other Atlantis hotels. The project is reported to have cost $1.63 billion.[5]

Controversies, collusion, and apartheid involvement[edit]

In 1984, Kerzner made a deal with Leslie Young, the Minister of Finance for Bophutatswana, that any investments by his company, Sun International, that had the effect of advertising apartheid abroad, would be tax-deductible. Sun International paid next to no money for taxes in South Africa due to tax breaks.[6]

In 1987, an agreement between Young and Kerzner stated that 90% of taxes from entertainers in Bophutatswana would go back to Sun International, with any entertainer making more than R26,000 having to pay half their income to Bophutatswana.[6]

In 1990, Kerzner was found to have paid R5 million to the Transkei Chief George Matanzima for gaming licenses, R2 million of which was said to be a bribe. The case surrounding this was dropped in 1997.[6]

In 1997, Alan Greenblo was banned from publishing a biography on Kerzner, Kerzner - Unauthorized. While Kerzner wanted sections of the book to be cut out, Witwatersrand Judge Monas Flemming banned it outright. Sections of the book were published in Noseweek the same year.[6][7]

Personal life[edit]

Kerzner was married four times. His first wife was Maureen Adler and together they had three children:[8] Butch Kerzner, A drea Kerzner, and Beverly Kerzner Mace.[9][10] His second wife was Shirley Bestbier; they had two children: Brandon Kerzner and Chantal Kerzner Sweeney.[9][11] She later committed suicide[2] soon after the birth of her second child.[9]

His marriage to his third wife, Miss World 1974 Anneline Kriel, ended in divorce after five years.[2] During a lengthy period in the 1990s, he dated the model Christina Estrada and got engaged, but never married her.[12] He married his fourth wife, Heather Murphy in 2000[13] and they divorced in 2011.[12]

Kerzner's son, Howard "Butch" Kerzner died on 11 October 2006 when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed near Sosua, in the Puerto Plata province of the Dominican Republic.[14][15] He left behind his wife, Vanessa Kerzner, and two children Tai and Kailin. Sol Kerzner's daughter, Andrea, is the founder and CEO of Lalela, a charity dedicated to bringing the arts to at-risk youth in South Africa.[16]

Kerzner was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the industry during the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in March, 2019.[17] Kerzner died of cancer on 21 March 2020.[18]


  1. ^ SOL KERZNER: The Miniature Minotaur Retrieved on 20 June 2014
  2. ^ a b c Sunday Tribune: "Sun sets on Sol’s empire" By Vivian Attwood 17 January 2012
  3. ^ Suiwer Sol Rapport. 29 March 2020
  4. ^ The Xanadu Man - Sol Kerzner Retrieved on 2 April 2020
  5. ^ "UPDATE 1-China's Fosun, Sun City casino king bet on luxury Hainan resort". Reuters. 10 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d "Apartheid Grand Corruption: Assessing the scale of crimes of profit from 1976 to 1994" (PDF). Open Secrets. May 2006.
  7. ^ "Noseweek 21 - March, 1998 News you're not supposed to know". Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  8. ^ The Independent: "The great casino cash-in: the Sun King (and his shady past)" by Paul Vallely 1 February 2007
  9. ^ a b c Evening Standard: "Lucky Heather Kerzner" by Lydia Slater 27 November 2009
  10. ^ new York Times: "Evening Hours; Wildlife Watching" May 8, 1994
  11. ^ The Sunday Telegraph: "Man With A Mission" 15 April 2007
  12. ^ a b Evening Standard: "Sol Kerzner put business before our marriage, says wife" by Simon Freeman 3 October 2011
  13. ^ "News". The Telegraph. 15 March 2016. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  14. ^ New York Times: "Howard Brett Kerzner, 42, Dies; Led Global Resort Developer" By Jenny Anderson 13 October 2006
  15. ^ Bahamas Tribune: "Butch Kerzner Killed - Butch Kerzner, who with his father Sol created the Atlantis dream for the Bahamas, was killed yesterday in a helicopter crash in the Dominican Republic" by John Marquis 12 October 2006
  16. ^ Elle South Africa: "ELLE MEETS ANDREA KERZNER OF LALELA - ELLE chats with Andrea Kerzner, founder and CEO of Lalela, an organisation that is using the arts curriculum to bring about meaningful change in the lives of at-risk youth" by Dimeji Alara May 9, 2016
  17. ^ Newman, Emily (14 February 2019). "Lifetime achievement award". Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  18. ^ Jele, Nhlanhla. "South African hotel tycoon Sol Kerzner has died". News24. Retrieved 21 March 2020.

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