Sun king bows out

2012-01-14 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s sun king and legendary hotel magnate Sol Kerzner (75) has retired as the executive head of Kerzner International.

This could be the end of the road for one of South Africa’s best-known and most successful tycoons.

Alan Leibman, also born in South Africa, takes over from Kerzner, who will for the time being remain on as chair of the group’s directors.

Kerzner will continue to work closely with Leibman on strategy and growth of the Atlantis and One&Only trademarks, said a spokesperson.

Kerzner told Beeld: “The past 17 years Alan has made big contributions to the success of Kerzner [International] and his giant experience in the industry makes him the ideal executive chief to lead Kerzner in future.”

Kerzner said he believes the group’s new structure is the best way to take the company into the future.

His business empire has waned since the death of his heir, Butch Kerzner, in a helicopter-crash in 2006.

To re-structure debt, Kerzner in December transferred ownership of some of his favourite properties, including the flagship resort, Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas, to a private investment group, Brookfield.

His cash flow problems were in part due to the tough economic times which the hotel industry has suffered in the past three years.

Kerzner International will, however, still manage all the properties now in Brookfield’s name.

Kerzner International still owns the Atlantis and One&Only trademarks and the rights to develop new properties under these names.

Kerzner started life as a poor boy in Bezuidenhoutsvallei, Johannesburg, under the care of his sister, Sylvia. He then rose to almost single-handedly establish the South Africa’s luxury tourism market, starting with a five-star hotel, the Beverley Hills, in Umhlanga Rocks.

The Southern Sun hotel-group followed, in which stable Sun International and the Lost City resort were developed.

Kerzner’s success saw him opening the Atlantis hotel in Dubai in 2008 with a party that cost $20 million (R163 million in today’s money).

The group’s spokesperson said Kerzner had a holiday in South Africa during December. The One&Only hotel on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town is one of the Kerzner group’s newest assets.

Kerzner will, however, remain based in London to stay involved with Kerzner International’s activities.

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