Farewell to the Sun King
Sol Kerzner’s life is a classic rags-to-riches story. Born to Lithuanian-Jewish immigrant parents in the Johannesburg suburb of Troyville, he was the youngest of four children. Kerzner wanted to be a mechanic when he grew up but his father persuaded him to go to university.
After qualifying as a chartered accountant from the University of Witwatersrand, he became a junior partner at a large auditing firm. In 1964, after buying an old cottage on the Umhlanga beachfront near Durban, the intrepid entrepreneur built the famous 88-room Beverly Hills Hotel with a hefty price tag of R1-million — at the time this was South Africa’s first five star hotel. From then he never looked back.
Having founded the country’s two largest hotel groups — Southern Sun and Sun International — he helped transform the tourism industries at home and internationally in destinations such as Dubai, Mauritius, Maldives and The Bahamas. Kerzner was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the industry during the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in March, 2019. He died on 21 March 2020 at the age of 84.
Sol Kerzner has been called many things: charismatic, blunt, controversial, notorious, genius and the Sun King. One thing we can be certain of, South Africa’s most famous billionaire and legendary hotelier was, undoubtedly a true business visionary.
Five business principles Sol Kerzner lived by
People form the backbone of a business
A good leader is someone who will do whatever is necessary to ensure they’re surrounded by the best people – a team that can effectively communicate with personnel will get the best out of any business.
“I always made a point of recognising the good work of staff”. – Sol Kerzner
Be a leader not a follower – stay ahead of the competition
Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way through to the top – that is a valuable learning curve. It helps to be creative if you want to stay ahead of the competition.
“Get the best possible experience and learn from it”. – Sol Kerzner
Conceptualise something exciting
Never let realism stand in the way of a good theme, make it mind-boggling, huge and remember that anything that might be perceived as ridiculous will be swallowed whole.
“Blow away the customer” – Sol Kerzner
Your currency should be dedication and commitment
Dream big and be committed to fulfilling those dreams.
“No dream is too ambitious for the man whose imagination has no boundaries”– Sol Kerzner
Calculate your risk
“You take a chance… Calculate the odds, research the international market properly, and establish the Southern Africans’ taste, style, appetite and enjoyment, aim at giving them a good time at the best quality that they can afford – then go for it!” – Sol Kerzner