Hotel magnate Solomon ‘Sol’ Kerzner has announced his retirement as the chairman of Kerzner International Holdings.
The move brings to a close one of the most dazzling careers in hospitality industry, with Kerzner top of the sector for decades.
The news came after Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) confirmed it had completed the purchase of a “significant” equity interest in the leading international Kerzner International.
ICD is an investment arm of the Dubai government.
The chief executive of ICD, HE Mohammed Al Shaibani, will take on the role of chairman of the hotel operator, replacing Kerzner, while chief executive Alan Leibman will stay in position.
Kerzner, who founded the company in 1994, said: “I am exceptionally proud of all that has been accomplished at Kerzner International.
“This is a significant milestone in my life after a long and happy career in the tourism industry and I wish the company well.
“I am confident that with ICD’s guidance, the company will fulfil on its upcoming expansions towards further growth and global reach.”
Atlantis, the Palm, is considered among the best in the world
With a career spanning more than 45 years, Kerzner, now 78, remains one of South Africa’s most admired entrepreneurs.
He was born in Johannesburg and went on to build a hotel industry in South Africa that remains a testimony to his ability to turn grand visions into reality.
As the youngest of four children of Russian Jewish immigrants, his family started a hotel chain and, after graduating as a Chartered Accountant, Kerzner took over the running of the group and went on to create the most successful hotel group in South Africa, Sun International.
He later moved and expanded as a hotelier overseas with Kerzner International, which included the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas and the One&Only properties around the world, including Cape Town.
Kerzner International Holdings presently operates globally under the world-renowned One&Only and Atlantis brands, with international presence, significantly in Dubai with three resorts, two resorts in The Bahamas, and more in Mauritius, The Maldives, Mexico, South Africa and soon, Australia.
This new strategic move by ICD in the hotel and tourism sector in Dubai follows its acquisition earlier this year of Atlantis, The Palm resort.
Atlantis, The Palm, was itself recognised as the World’s Leading Landmark Resort by the World Travel Awards for the past two years.
New projects under development include the new Atlantis resort in China, and four new One&Only resorts currently under development around the globe.
One&Only Ocean Club
School of Tourism
During his career Kerzner worked closely with his late son Butch, who shared his love of the hospitality industry until his tragic death in a helicopter accident in the Dominican Republic in 2006.
During their visit to South Africa in 2003 they announced their intention, as a company and a family, to make a sizeable donation towards the building of the new School of Tourism & Hospitality at the University of Johannesburg, which opened in 2005.
Atlantis, Paradise Island, recognised as the Caribbean’s Leading Casino Resort since 2001 by the World Travel Awards, is now owned by ICD
An amateur boxer and wrestling champion during his days at the University of Witwatersrand, he qualified as a chartered accountant.
The first hotel for the man who became known as the ‘Sun King’ was the five-star Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga, which was launched in 1964.
Kerzner went on to launch Southern Sun Hotels, together with South African Breweries, in 1969.
The property he is perhaps best known for in South Africa is Sun City, part of Sun International, the massive multi-use resort which he built in the middle of the bush in the now named North West province in 1979.
Sun City was recognised by World Travel Awards as Africa’s Leading Family Resort in 2013.
Sun City in South Africa
Investment Corporation of Dubai
Investment Corporation of Dubai appears to have made a shrewd acquisition, with a number of the properties acquired considered among the best in the world.
One&Only Royal Mirage is already considered the United Arab Emirate’s Leading Hotel by the World Travel Awards, for example, with the property defending the title at the WTA Middle East Gala Ceremony 2014.
That event is set to take place at the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai on May 4th, with more information here.
ICD is led by HE Mohammed Al Shaibanin, who occupies the roles of chief executive and executive director with the organisation.
Under his leadership, ICD consolidates the commercial and business assets of the government of Dubai.
These assets are in diverse sectors, and include market leading companies in financial services, transportation, real estate, leisure and utilities.
ICD has been mandated to enable the globalisation and privatisation of these iconic brands.
HE Al Shaibanin started his professional life with the Dubai Ports Authority and Jebel Ali Free Zone where he worked for seven years.
After this he moved to Singapore for four years, as managing director of Al Khaleej Investments.
Sol Kerzner Factfile
- Kerzner was born on August 23rd 1935 in Johannesburg, beginning his hospitality career in 1962.
- He built South Africa’s first five-star graded hotel, the Beverly Hills Hotel, in Durban, which opened in 1964. In the same year he built the 450-room Elangeni Hotel, overlooking Durban’s beachfront.
- In 1969, in partnership with South African Breweries, he established the chain of Southern Sun Hotels. Kerzner opened his first hotel outside South Africa, Le Saint Géran, in Mauritius in 1975.
- In 1979 he developed Sun City, the most ambitious resort project in Africa. Over a period of ten years, Sun City included: four hotels, a man-made lake, two Gary Player golf courses and an entertainment centre with an indoor 6 000-seat multi-purpose arena in which he presented many superstars including Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli and Shirley Bassey. Sun City was also the venue for many World Title fights.
- In 1994 he hosted the VIP function by President Nelson Mandela’s Presidential Inauguration. Later in 1994 Kerzner made his first major acquisition outside Africa through the purchase of the Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas. Kerzner launched a major redevelopment and expansion programme, which transformed Atlantis, Paradise Island into a 2 300-room resort, which 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 in Connecticut and in 2000 he 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 US.
- 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. These seven properties include the spectacular One&Only Reethi Rah (Maldives), One&Only Le Saint Géran (Mauritius), One&Only Royal Mirage (Dubai), One&Only Ocean Club (Bahamas), One&Only Palmilla (Los Cabos, Mexico), One&Only (Cape Town) and One&Only The Palm (Dubai). A new One&Only, Sanya, is under construction 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. Kerzner extended the Atlantis brand globally in 2008 with the development of Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai.
- In 2010 Kerzner’s true passion for hospitality was recognized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by confirming that Sol Kerzner was invested with the insignia of the Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) for his outstanding and exemplary contributions in the areas of business and community in the Bahamas.