Kerzner hotel wows South Africa

Apr 14, 2009 5:06 PM
by Ray Poirier | The prodigal son returned home to South Africa in style after having developed gaming and non-gaming properties in various places around the world.

Still, Sol Kerzner, who made his name by building and operating Sun City, the extravagant casino/resort in Bophuthatswana decades ago, drew celebrities galore for the opening of his $100 million luxury hotel in Cape Town, South Africa, last week.

The One & Only Hotel sits on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and overlooks Table Mountain.

Personalities attracted to the opening included Sharon Stone, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon. They nibbled on food prepared by world-famous chefs Gordon Ramsay and Nobu Matsuhisa and were entertained by jazz greats including Hugh Masekela.

The one million dollars spent on the lavish opening party didn’t faze the casino mogul who gushed, "I think this hotel is going to raise the bar for the hotel industry in South Africa."

Although he will be chasing some of Europe’s wealthy travelers, he hopes the property’s luxurious atmosphere will attract visitors from the Middle East as well. He is well-aware of the global economic downturn, which reportedly has caused a major drop in revenue at his flagship, the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. But he feels his new South African attraction is "going to be sensational."

Among his first visitors at the One & Only was former South African president and world-statesman Nelson Mandela who shared a private luncheon with Kerzner after spending the night at the property with his wife Graca Machel.

But, world finances have caused problems for the international developer who recently canceled plans with MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGM) to build a resort on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip and whose Dubai plans were shattered by the lack of funds.

Also impacting the activities of his former company, Kerzner International Inc., was the tragic death of his son, and right-hand man, "Butch" Kerzner, who was killed in a plane crash while surveying areas of Central America for a possible development.

Sol Kerzner formerly owned the Resort Atlantic City hotel/casino and is a partner in the financially-troubled Twin River slots facility in Rhode Island.