Great hotels have been the vision of strong, passionate, eccentric and colourful individuals: owners, architects, managers, politicians and industry leaders. Often they built their hotels not simply to make money but to show their wealth, influence and power. They influenced, shaped and developed the hotel industry in the past and the present. There was Thomas Cook who invented the Travel & Tour Agency and Cesar Ritz who gave us luxury hotels.
One such colourful and iconic hotelier is Sol Kerzner, he celebrates his 78 birthday today. Sol (Solomon) was born on 23rd August 1935 in Johannesburg to Russian immigrants.
They don't come any larger-than-life than Sol Kerzner, complex, committed, controversial, colourful and very, very successful. He loves boxing, blonds and most of all business and he is very good at that. However his credentials are impressive in all three of these departments; He learned boxing and wrestling to survive some hard college years.
Sol was married 4 times, his third wife was a Miss World winner and his latest wife is quite a few years younger. Between wives three and four he was engaged to a Californian supermodel. An impressive line up!
But even more impressive is his business acumen.
Kerzner's career in hospitality began in 1962 with the purchase of the Astra Hotel in Durban. Following the success of that property he continued developing hotels, each time stretching his own boundaries. In 1969, in partnership with South African Breweries, he established Southern Sun Hotels and in 1979 developed Sun City the most ambitious resort project in Africa at the time. It also presented a stage for a colourful, outgoing host to perform, he welcomed among others Liza Minnelli, Shirley Bassey and Frank Sinatra declared him as "the best saloon-keeper in the world". This project was to transform his fortune, making him one of the richest men in Africa and leading to his nickname of the "Sun King". The Sun King never does things by halves; who else but Kerzner could dream up a Lost City, a Lost World or a Desert Paradise, but then he never doubted. He didn't stop here; the Atlantis, Paradise Island Resort in The Bahamas, the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut and in 2002 Kerzner launched One & Only Resorts, a luxury brand located in the most exotic locations including the Bahamas, Mexico, Mauritius, the Maldives, South Africa and Dubai.
In early 2007, Kerzner expanded Atlantis, Paradise Island with new hotels adding 1,100 new rooms to the property.
Kerzner extended the Atlantis brand globally with the development of Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai. This $1.5 billion, 1,500-room, water-themed resort opened in late-September 2008 on The Palm. The resort features the largest aquarium and waterpark in the Middle East; did we mention that he never does things by halves?
In December 2010, Kerzner's passion for hospitality was recognized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by investing him with the insignia of Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) for his outstanding and exemplary contribution in the area of business and community in the Bahamas.
There are some clouds in the sky for the hotel industry worldwide and Kerzner International faces some rainy days and some real challenges for the iconic hotelier.
The hotel magnate and his present wife embrace fine art and unusual furnishings in their homes; they live a fast life jetting between their homes in London, The Bahamas and Cape Town.
But surprisingly their wedding was a much less fanciful affair in the Bridge Suite at Atlantis on Paradise Island, with Sol's butler and their lawyer as the sole witnesses.
Indeed a colourful, passionate, hard working achiever and we at ehotelier.com respect and appreciate the contribution Sol has made towards our industry.
Sol, Happy Birthday to you.
From the ehotelier.com Team
PS. We hope you will invite more people to your birthday party today then you did to your last wedding.