Sol Kerzner was a South African accountant and business mogul best known as the founder of two the largest hotel groups in South Africa- the Southern Sun Hotel Group and Sun International. Thanks to his successful businesses, he was one of the richest men in the country, with an estimated net worth of $600 million.
Sol Kerzner was born the youngest of the four children of Jewish-Russian emigrants and he grew up in the poor suburbs of Johannesburg. In 1979, he established a number of world-renowned resorts before embarking on his big mission — building Sun City. Now Sun City has grown to be one of the most popular destinations in the world, which has managed to attract a large number of international artists, such as Elton John, Queen, and Ray Charles. His story and success have been a constant source of lessons for the younger generation on following your dreams and never giving up.
Sol Kerzner Was Brought Up By Hoteliers
The South African real estate tycoon was born Solomon Kerzner on August 23, 1935, to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Morris Kerzner and Bertha Kerzner. He was brought up in Doornfontein, Johannesburg as the youngest among four siblings. While growing up, he was not the most built kid, and so he became an easy target for bullies. To defend himself, he decided to learn boxing, something he would later be involved in professionally for a little while.
His parents made their own living running a small fruit business before they later joined the hotel business by buying one on the beachfront. Sol first helped them in running their hotels before he later joined the business. His company, Kerzner International now owns quite a lot of property including the lavish Atlantis hotel and casino resort in the Bahamas.
As a young man, he was more interested in working on cars, but his father, Morris Kerzner advised him to, instead, go to the university. Hence, Sol Kerzner graduated from the South African army and did a further degree in Accounting at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
The billionaire left South Africa at some point when faced with charges of alleged bribery. He focused then on the Caribbean and the United States. His success after his tainted reputation was hard-won but he prevailed nonetheless.
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He was married four times and had 5 Children
The South African tycoon might have been a success with finances, but he was so much with his marital life as he was married a total of four times during his lifetime. The first woman he got married to was Maureen Adler Kerzner. Unfortunately, the union ended in divorce.
His next marriage was to Shirley Bestbier in 1970. The two remained together until 1978 when Shirly ended her life shortly after the birth of their second child together. Although reasons for the suicide have not been revealed, it was claimed that Sol never got over her until his death.
Two years later, Kerzner would get married a third time to the South African model and actress, Anneline Kriel who was also Miss South Africa and Miss World in 1974. The marriage only lasted 5 years before ending in 1985. She proceeded to marry Philip Tucker and later Kerzner’s protege, Peter Bacon.
Sol Kerzner married a fourth and final time to glamorous American-born socialite Heather Murphy in 2000. Incidentally, it was not the first marriage for both of them as Heather was once married to an Englishman, Charlie Murphy, and had two kids before the union ended. Heather and Sol would be together for 11 years even with an age difference of 34 between them. The irony was that shortly after she turned 40, Sol started making jokes that he had never gone out with a woman in her 40s and not long afterward, the American born filed for divorce as a result of what she described as unreasonable behavior. Heather made millions from the divorce, even though she was hard hit. Unfortunately, she would go on to experience a sharp fall in her fortune following an investment that went sour.
From all his marriages, Kerzner had 5 kids. His first marriage was blessed with three children; Butch Kerzner, Andrea Kerzner, and Beverly Kerzner Mace. The remaining children, Brandon Kerzner and Chantal Kerzner Sweeney were born to him by his second wife, Shirly.
In 2006, tragedy struck when Sol lost his first son, Butch Kerzner in a helicopter crash. The Durban born was a graduate of Stanford University where he obtained a Master’s degree in Business Administration. But also joined the family business and lost his life after he went to survey a site for a new resort in the Dominican Republic. He was 42 at the time of his death.
Sol Kerzner Left Behind A Massive Net Worth
Without any doubt, Sol Kerzner was one of the richest men in South Africa. He made his fortune through his many investments in the hotel business. It is thanks to this that he had an estimated net worth of around $600 million at the time of his death.He has built businesses from the start and watched them bloom into things others would never have expected.
He has had ambitious projects in different parts of the world including South Africa where he built the Sun City and the United States where he had the Mohegan Sun. He also had other properties including the Lost City, the Beverley Hills Hotel, and the Elangeni among others. World over, he had properties in places like China, Mexico, Australia, Mauritius, and Dubai.
For a man as rich as Sol, one would expect that he enjoyed the luxurious things of life; he did not fail at that. He had state of the art estates as well as luxurious cars.
Other Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Sol
He Bought His First Hotel in 1962
He bought his first hotel in Durban, South Africa, in 1962. The hotel rapidly became a huge success in South Africa; as a result, he decided to build another 5 star-graded hotel in Umhlanga, South Africa. This was followed by his opening of the Beverly Hills’ hotel in 1964, with a succession of Southern Sun hotels in 1969; and the empire of other resorts he has, so far, managed to establish for himself from that time to date.
Sol Kerzner Built Two Man-made Lakes, Four Hotels, and 2 Gary-player Golf Courses over a period of 10 Years.
Among his numerous achievements, the two man-made lakes, four hotels, as well as the two Gary-player golf courses he built within 10 years were considered to be the greatest. At that same time, he also established an entertainment centre that contained 6,000 multi-seat arenas, in which he invited a large number of superstars to perform: Liza Minelli, Frank Sinatra, Queen, Elton John, Shirley Bassey, and Rod Steward among others.
Sol Kerzner Suffered a Heart Attack that Almost Killed Him in 1980
Kerzner suffered a heart attack that almost got him killed in 1980. There were rumours that this heart attack had been triggered by his bad temper and womanizing habits.
His Children have been part of the business
Sol ensured that he also introduced his children to the hotel and casino business early enough. Thanks to this, they became good at it and became a part.
Sol Kerzner and his Late Son were Almost Broke in 2005
Kerzner and his late son were in debt in 2005 after they delisted their company from the New York stock exchange at a cost of $3.6 billion. However, they sold the two “one and only’s” and Atlantis to Brookfield. And since then, he continued to receive a 5% dividend from Connecticut until the end of 2014. This helped them to bounce back.
He Built a Casino and a $1.6 Billion Atlantis Resort
Sol Kerzner got back into the business of developing and designing properties and built a casino that would be competing with Mohegan Sun. His company, Kerzner International Holdings Limited, agreed to partner with the largest privately owned resort company in China, Fosun International Limited, to establish an Atlantis Resort in Hainan Island, South China Sea. The project consumed $1.6 billion and was launched in January 2018.
Sol Kerzner was Once Engaged to Christina Estrada whom he Jilted to Marry her Best Friend
Kerzner’s fourth wife was once a best friend to Christina Estrada, who was by then engaged to Sol Kerzner. Surprisingly, Kerzner ditched her after a seven-year courtship to marry her best friend, Heather Murphy. Interestingly, Christina who was a supermodel got married in 2001 to Saudi billionaire heir and businessman. The marriage outlived Sol’s fourth marriage but also ended in 2014. Nonetheless, she made a massive £53 million in divorce settlement; the biggest in any law court in English history.
Queen Elizabeth II Awarded him an Insignia of a Knight Commander
Following his complacent contribution in the business industry of Bahamas, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him the insignia of a Knight Commander in the highly distinguishable order of Saint Michael and King Georges (KCMG).
He Spent $20 Million for the Launching Party of Atlantis Resort in Dubai
After investing $1.6 billion in the Atlantis resort project in Dubai, Sol Kerzner spent a further $20 million to launch the resort. This party has been recognized as one of the biggest parties that have ever been held in the history of the world; it has been ranked above the Beijing Olympics. The party launch was shown on CNN and Sky Broadcast. In an interview, Kerzner expressed how he didn’t regret spending such a huge amount on a launch party since he felt the $1.6 billion investment was worth it.
He died of Cancer in 2020
Easy to describe as a man who has seen it and done it all, Sol lost his life on 21 March 2020, at the age of 84. He died in Leeukoppie Estate in Cape Town from cancer and was surrounded by family members. His funeral was private, only attended by family members.