Sol Kerzner – Founder and Chairman of Kerzner International Holdings Limited, is a visionary who has redefined the scope and scale of destination resorts. Mr. Kerzner continues to focus his attention and expertise on the design and development of the Company’s new projects worldwide.
His career spans more than 50 years in the resort industry. He founded both of South Africa’s largest hotel groups and has played a pivotal role in the development of the tourism industries of South Africa, Mauritius, The Maldives, Dubai and The Bahamas.
Sol Kerzner, the youngest of four children, was born on August 23, 1935 in Johannesburg to Russian immigrants. In 1958, Kerzner graduated as a chartered accountant from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and immediately joined one of Durban’s largest accountancy firms, where, by age 25, he was named a junior partner.
Kerzner’s career in hospitality began in 1962 with the purchase of the Astra Hotel in Durban. Following the success of that property, Kerzner built South Africa’s first five star graded hotel in 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, 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 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 organization.
In 1994, following the first democratic elections in South Africa, Kerzner was asked by incumbent President Nelson Mandela to arrange the VIP function at the Presidential Inauguration which was attended by approximately 1000 people including many of the World’s leaders and Heads of State
Later in 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 1996, Kerzner opened the hugely successful Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut and in 2000 opened the second phase of the project including a 1,200 room hotel. The property is one of the largest gaming and entertainment complexes in the United States.
In 2002, Kerzner launched One&Only Resorts. Created exclusively for the luxury resort market, One&Only Resorts are conceived as hallmarks of excellence. Set in some of the most beautiful locations in the world, each award-winning resort offers guests a distinctive style and personality born of its local culture, a genuine hospitality and a lively energy that is unparalleled. Luxurious accommodations are complemented by personalized and friendly service, outstanding spas, live entertainment and a host of sporting facilities. One&Only restaurants are operated by some of the World’s most accomplished chefs including Yannick Alleno, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Vineet Bhatia and Nobu Matsuhisa. These seven properties include the spectacular One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives; One&Only Le Saint Géran in Mauritius; One&Only Royal Mirage in Dubai; One&Only Ocean Club in The Bahamas; One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico; One&Only Cape Town in South Africa and One&Only The Palm in Dubai. A new One&Only, Sanya, is under development on Hainan Island in China.
In early 2007, Kerzner expanded Atlantis, Paradise Island with new boutique hotels, The Cove and The Reef, which added 1,100 new rooms to the property. This expansion also included 21 new retail outlets; Dolphin Cay, a state-of-the-art dolphin education center and interaction habitat; Aquaventure, a lushly-landscaped water experience of rides and thrills 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. This $1.5 billion, 1,500-room, water-themed resort opened in late-September 2008 on The Palm Jumeirah – a multi-billion dollar leisure and residential development in Dubai. The resort features the largest aquarium and water-park in the Middle East, luxury retail outlets and 10 restaurants featuring internationally recognized chefs such as Giorgio Locatelli, Michel Rostang and Nobu Matsuhisa.
In December 2010 Kerzner’s passion for hospitality was recognized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by confirming that Sol Kerzner was invested with the insignia of Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) for his outstanding and exemplary contribution in the area of business and community in the Bahamas. This highest honour was awarded in the annual Queen’s Birthday Honours list for 2010.
Sol Kerzner frequently visits the various Kerzner properties and splits his time between his homes in London, The Bahamas and Cape Town.