Solomon (Sol) Kerzner, founder of Southern Sun Hotels, Sun International, and Kerzner International, has died of cancer at his family home in Cape Town. Kerzner was 84.
Kerzner’s hospitality career began in 1962 when he left the accounting profession and purchased the Astra, a small inn in Durban, South Africa. Kerzner quickly transformed the establishment into one of the most popular hotels in the area, a success that would define his 60-year career. Kerzner’s breakthrough project was the Beverly Hills, Umhlanga Rocks, the first 5-star hotel in South Africa. He went on to build the 450-room Elangeni Hotel on the Durban beachfront and then partnered with South African Breweries to establish Southern Sun Hotels, which by 1983 operated 30 luxury hotels encompassing more than 7,000 keys.
Kerzner’s most monumental achievement was the creation of Sun City. In an area north of Johannesburg where there were no roads and no infrastructure, Kerzner imagined an ambitious resort project. Commencing work in 1975, over the next 10 years, Kerzner built four hotels, a man-made lake, two Gary Player golf courses, and an entertainment center with an indoor 6,000-seat arena that played host to a world-class roster of artists. In 1994, he launched a major redevelopment and expansion project and transformed the bankrupt Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas into the Atlantis Resort.
Kerzner and his son, Butch, went on to launch One&Only Resorts, which established luxury properties in the Bahamas, Mexico, Mauritius, the Maldives, South Africa, and Dubai. Butch proceeded his father in death in 2006 when he was tragically killed in a helicopter accident.
Kerzner is survived by his children and 10 grandchildren.
Photo: Courtesy of The Phoenix Partnership