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Sol Kerzner profile

  • Story Highlights
  • Kerzner was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1935
  • His first hotel purchase was The Palace Hotel in Durban, in 1960
  • Kerzner was the first non-American in the U.S. Gaming Hall of Fame
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Sol Kerzner is the founder, CEO and chairman of the board of Kerzner International Holdings Limited (formerly Sun International). Mr. Kerzner has gained international acclaim for his imaginatively designed, high-quality resorts and business acumen.

His career spans some 40 years in the hotel/resort and casino industries. He founded both of Southern Africa's largest hotel groups, played a pivotal role in the development of the tourism industries in Mauritius and The Bahamas, and continues to develop industry leading projects in unique destinations throughout the world.

Sol Kerzner, the youngest of four children, was born on August 23, 1935 in a lower-class suburb of Johannesburg to Russian immigrants. In 1958, Mr. Kerzner graduated as a chartered accountant from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and immediately joined one of Durban's largest firms, where, by age 25, he was named a junior partner.

Mr. Kerzner's career in hospitality began in 1960 with the purchase of The Palace Hotel in Durban. Following the success of that and a second hotel, Mr. Kerzner bought and developed an underdeveloped site north of Durban, an area with little apparent tourist appeal. Contacts from his accounting days backed his revolutionary concept of a complete resort with entertainment and sporting facilities and a variety of specialty restaurants and bars. The result was the Beverly Hills Hotel, the first five-star hotel built in South Africa. It opened in December 1964 and within a year was acclaimed as a premier resort for local and international tourists.

Following the Beverly Hills, Mr. Kerzner built the 450-room Elangeni, overlooking Durban's beachfront. And, in 1969, in partnership with South African Breweries, he established the chain of Southern Sun Hotels, which by 1983 was operating 30 luxury hotels with more than 5,000 rooms. In 1975, Mr. Kerzner opened his first international hotel, Le Saint Géran, in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

While in South Africa, Mr. Kerzner developed Sun City, the most ambitious resort development in Africa. This project included the development of four hotels, a man-made lake, two golf courses, an entertainment center with an indoor 6,000-seat arena, over 1 million hand-planted trees, a casino, two golf courses, and a series of water rides and attractions.

In 1994, Mr. Kerzner made his first major acquisition outside Africa through the purchase of the Paradise Island Resort in The Bahamas. This 1,150-room resort and casino had fallen into bankruptcy. Immediately after acquiring the resort, Mr. Kerzner launched a major re-development and expansion program turning the Atlantis, Paradise Island into a 2,300-room resort and casino that also includes the world's largest man-made marine habitat, the largest casino entertainment center in the Caribbean, a world-class marina and other attractions.

In 1996, Mr. Kerzner opened the Mohegan Sun gaming resort in Connecticut, occupying 240 acres on the Thames River. This was as a result of negotiating a unique agreement with the Mohegan Indian Nation. Recently, the property has been expanded through a $1 billion investment and is now one of the two largest gaming and entertainment resorts in the United States.

Kerzner is extending its Atlantis brand globally with the development of Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai. An approximately 2,000 room, water-themed resort expected to open in 2008, currently being constructed on The Palm, Jumeirah, a multi-billion dollar leisure and residential development in Dubai. In the United Kingdom, Kerzner is currently developing a casino in Northampton and received a Certificate of Consent from the UK Gaming Board in 2004.

Throughout his career, Sol Kerzner has been bestowed with a number of global awards, including Hotels Magazine's 2004 Hotelier of the World, Las Vegas Hotel & Restaurant Show's International Hotelier of the Year for 2005 and a lifetime achievement award from the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa.

In 1992 he was the first non-American to be admitted to the U.S. Gaming Hall of Fame. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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