The closest we can get to a real life King Solomon of the Biblical stories is probably Solomon Kerzner, the South African business magnate. He maybe likened to antiquity’s King of Israel for both his wisdom and his wealth. The ‘Sun King’ of South Africa was the owner of Kerzner International, the company that realized the Atlantis group of hotels, the Sun City and the Palace of the Lost City, until he recently sold his stake to Dubai’s Investment Corporation. Among his main achievements, Sol Kerzner, as he is better known, was the first non-American to be inducted into the US Gaming Hall of Fame. He also received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth, after being nominated by the Bahamas government as the largest employer in that country.
His Accession to Power
Although Solomon Kerzner began as a “boring accountant” in his own words, he knew that his goal lay elsewhere. He started his career in hospitality with Astra Hotel in Durban, which he later bought in 1962. He is credited with having opened the first five star hotel in South Africa, in a village called Umhlanga, north of Durban. This was followed by the Beverly Hills Hotel, which in turn was succeeded by the Southern Sun in 1969. The Sun City was a project of huge magnitude and came to be known as Africa’s Kingdom of Pleasure. Consisting of four five star hotels, two man-made lakes and two Gary-player golf courses, all of which were built within a period of just ten years, this was the project that catapulted Kerzner to the league of real-estate tycoons and made him a billionaire.
King Solomon’s Mines
Known for his luxurious resorts, the Sun King also played a pivotal role in establishing the casino industry. This perhaps is what accrued to him the reputation of being ‘South Africa’s Donald Trump’. But he had to move away from South Africa, after having made his billions, under the cloud of suspicion of bribery and corruption of exclusive gaming rights. From then on, whenever he tried to open a casino in a new territory, his reputation preceded him and it made it that much more difficult for him. However, what is notable is that each time, he ultimately prevailed. He showed astute judgment several times in his long career. This was seen with his strategic forays into the gaming market in London, at a time when it was developing, and also in the United States, when he achieved approval from the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.
The Future of the King
Although Solomon Kerzner has sold out Kerzner International Holdings Ltd to Dubai Sovereign Wealth Fund and has retired from the position of Chairman, he states clearly that there is more to come. The most exciting event that the casino industry awaits now is the launch of the Atlantis Sanya in 2016. Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd and Kerzner International collaborated to build a $1.6 billion resort on China’s Hainan holiday island. It shall be interesting to see how this resort performs in the light of the recent drop of casino revenues in Macau. However, even as the legacy lives on without the king, he promises to make his comeback in ways that we look forward to, even at the ripe age of 78. Sol Kerzner has opened an office in London and will be offering consulting services, is all we know. Like King Solomon of the Bible, the Sun King too has shown good judgment by knowing when to bow out and like the ancient king, he shall be recognized as a repository of business wisdom for anyone who seeks to make his mark in the real estate and casino industry.