The sun goes down

By admin
20 May 2011

He used to be known as The Sun King, South Africa’s answer to Donald Trump, the billionaire with the Midas touch who was rolling in money because of his uncanny knack for knowing how to take the wildest dream and turn it into reality.

But after almost 50 years in the hotel business the dream seems to be fading for Sol Kerzner.

Once hailed as SA’s richest self-made man he’s now head of an empire that’s $3 billion (about R21 billion) in the red – that’s more than the gross domestic product of some small African countries.

Things are so bad he’s having to resort to desperate measures and is reportedly considering selling some resorts in his chain, including the One&Only Hotel in Cape Town.

Never one to do things by halves, in the past few years he has been opening new hotels and spending like there’s no tomorrow. And when he needed loans there was no shortage of people willing to gamble on him.

He dazzled the world with his most ambitious hotel development in recent years: construction of the $1,5-billion (about R10,5 billion) Atlantis resort on The Palm Jumeirah, a manmade island in the shape of a palm off the coast of Dubai.

Just a few months later everything collapsed when financial markets crashed, sending the world into economic meltdown. People stopped travelling, hotel rooms stood empty and The Palm Jumeirah, where Kerzner was building another resort, looked like a ghost town.

After opening the Cape Town One&Only in 2009 he was already feeling the pinch and staff had to be retrenched.

Two years down the line things haven’t improved and the people who lent him money are running out of patience.

By September he’s expected to come up with $2,6 billion (R18,2 billion) but it seems the man with the golden touch may have run out of answers.

Interested parties are already circling. Malaysian investors reportedly made an unsolicited $3,4-billion (about R23,8 billion) offer last year to buy out Kerzner International Resorts which includes all 10 of Kerzner’s hotels in locations such as the Bahamas, Mauritius, Morocco and Mexico.

At his age retirement must seem like an attractive option. With homes in four countries he could easily spend the rest of his days relaxing in the sun without a worry in the world.

But don’t bet on it happening soon. After all the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into building his empire it’s unlikely he’s going to let it go down without a fight - irrepressible Kerzner is likely still to have one or two tricks up his sleeve.

Read all about it in YOU, 26 May 2011. CLICK HERE to follow us on Twitter.

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