23 Mar 2020

South Africa: † Hotelier Sol Kerzner Passes Away At the Age of 84

Solomon (Sol) Kerzner – “Mr. Atlantis Resort“ – passed away this weekend at the age of 84. For 60 years, Kerzner has been one of the most renowned entrepreneurs in the luxury hotel business not only in South Africa but worldwide. By establishing both of the two largest hotel operating companies in his country – Southern Sun and Sun International – and developing mega-resort projects, Kerzner significantly shaped the international tourism industry.

Born in Johannesburg as the son of Russian immigrants, Kerzner started his career in 1962 by purchasing the small “The Astra“ guesthouse in Durban (SA), which he transformed into one of the most popular hotels in the region. At the age of 26, he opened the first five-star-hotel “The Beverly Hills“ (Umhlanga Rocks) in the country. By partnering with the South African Breweries, Kerzer was able to establish Southern Sun Hotels – in 1983 there were already 30 luxury hotels under his management. One of his most controversial projects was the development of the “Sun City“ resort in an area with poor infrastructure 150 kilometres north-west of Johannesburg. Despite all criticism, the businessman positioned himself with this project against racism by the Apartheid government and ensured equal working conditions for all employees. After the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994, Sol Kerzner arranged the VIP reception of the newly elected president Nelson Mandela.

His first luxury resort not located in South Africa was “The Paradise Island Resort“ on the Bahamas, which after further expansion became the “Atlantis Paradise Resort“ with 3,400 rooms. Together with his son Howard “Butch“ Kerzner, the successful hotelier opened “The Mohegan Sun“ in Connecticut (USA), the first casino under the management of Kerzner International, and founded the hotel brand One&Only Resorts. Shortly after his son took over the position as CEO, he died in a helicopter accident (2006) and Sol Kerzner returned to his former management position at the company. Until 2012, further international mega projects had been developed, such as “Atlantis The Palm“ in Dubai and another Atlantis Resort on the Chinese island of Hainan. In 2014, Sol Kerzner retired as chairman of Kerzner International. In 2010 he was honored with the insignia “Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George” by Queen Elisabeth II.

On March 21st, 2020, Sol Kerzner passed away in the circle of his family after suffering from cancer. (eap)