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04 février 2007

Sun City Owner

The shock news that Manchester has won the race to provide the site for the UK's first "super casino" has turned the spotlight on South African Sol Kerzner...

"Sanctions breaker"

Sun City made Kerzner one of the richest men in Africa. While he was able to persuade artists such as Elton John and Shirley Bassey to perform at the casino, on the pretext that it was in an "independent" country, other stars boycotted the venue.

A 1985 album, Sun City, by Artists United Against Apartheid including Little Steven and Peter Gabriel, attacked Kerzner as a sanctions breaker. It was something he continued to deny claiming the resort encouraged harmony among the races.

In an interview in 2005 he said what excited him "was that, in a country where the races had been kept apart by law, we'd created a place where people of all colours could eat together, gamble together, watch international shows together, even sleep together."
Kerzner began facing other attacks, this time over alleged corruption. He was acused of having bribed a homeland leader, a charge that hung for years until it was finally dismissed by the South African attorney general.

Further allegations, in 1986, claiming he had bribed the former leader of Transkei, were dropped in 1993.

Kerzner gave money both to the white National Party and the African National Congress. After coming to power, Nelson Mandela confirmed that the ANC had received £140,000 from him saying "[the Kerzners are] an example of a family not only interested in their own enrichment, but willing to give something back."

Kerzner remained close to Mandela and now lives a flamboyant lifestyle, not least in his choice of brides. He numbers the first ever South African Miss World among the four women he has married.

He has a taste for the company of celebrities with Liza Minnelli, Shirley Bassey, Bono and Tracey Emin among the guests for his 70th birthday party at his Monaco villa.

Over the years Kerzner has moved his core businesses away from South Africa, expanding into the Bahamas, where he is now based, the USA and, now, the UK.

While he still has to retender for the Manchester casino it would be a brave man who could look at his record and bet against him getting it. Unlike the many punters who will eventually cross the threshold of the new venue, when it comes to business deals, Sol Krezner is not a gambler.

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