The 82-year-old tycoon, who along with Gary Player put South Africa on the tourist map with his Sun City development, has booted aside retirement to develop a patch of his home turf – a mountainside overlooking Cape Town.
This week he offered the Sunday Times an exclusive glimpse of his personal hideaway, which he bought 34 years ago at the insistence of his then wife, former Miss World Anneline Kriel.
He also spoke candidly about his extraordinary career and animated meetings with the who’s who of South African politics – including Nelson Mandela, Gary Player, FW de Klerk and Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
A markedly sentimental Kerzner also reflected on heart-warming encounters with other South African icons, including golf icon Gary Player who famously accused Kerzner of talking “bulls**t” upon hearing about the Sun City project and the now famous Gary Player Country Club golf course which is widely considered the best on the continent.
Kerzner made sure Player was present when the resort and golf course opened not long thereafter.
But it is the new family venture with his eldest daughter Andrea that has lured Kerzner back into the limelight. He has decided to develop a portion of the family property he shares with his children. It will be marketed under the Kerzner brand.
“I guess I have the time to sort of do something else,” Kerzner said, sitting on the balcony of his thatched home, famous for its A-list New Year’s Eve parties. “It’s really been just a fantastic home and I guess the only reason I thought of doing this residential [development] is because I’ve sold up the hotel business.
“Also, Andy [Andrea] is interested in working on it with me. It is something special to be working with my daughter.”
But whereas the Sun King will forever be remembered for the epic scale of his world-famous resorts, Andrea looks set to introduce her own brand of luxury that has more to do with architectural finesse than giant sculptures.
She is spearheading an environmentally friendly 44-house luxury development – each home a unique design – on the property overlooking Hout Bay and Llandudno.
She currently runs a nonprofit organisation from the property, and talks about fynbos mountain trails with the same wide-eyed enthusiasm her father once reserved for casinos and water slides.
In addition to the cachet of living next door to the Kerzners, prospective buyers can expect 24-hour concierge service, conference facilities, trails and horse-riding lessons – to name a few of the perks in the offing.
Although the Kerzners were mum about prices, a property expert attached a R500-million tag to the development.
The partnership is tinged with sadness in that it recalls the working relationship between Sol and his late son Butch, who was CEO of the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas at the time of his death.
Kerzner this week singled out Sun City and Atlantis as his most challenging projects, and spoke fondly about meetings with Mandela, De Klerk, Player and real estate mogul Pam Golding.
Recalling the day he fell in love with Leeukoppie estate in Hout Bay, Kerzner said Golding was deliberating over the asking price. He turned to her and said: “Listen, Pammie, just offer him the number [asking price] and then call me on the weekend and let me know.”
Of his supper with Mandela at his Bryanston home, he recalled how the then president asked him to intercede on his behalf with Buthelezi and Lucas Mangope – at the time the leader of the nominally independent Bophuthatswana, where Kerzner had built Sun City.
“Mandela really asked me to try and talk to both these guys and explain that all he wanted was harmony. And I guess it was just a great experience, really getting very close to Nelson Mandela. It is just remarkable how in many ways we were blessed to have him.”
Kerzner recalled an equally significant meeting with De Klerk in Cape Town when he was still president-elect.
“I walked in to his office and we shook hands. I said: ‘So FW, what are you going to do?’ He said: ‘Sol, one thing I am is pragmatic, and this system [apartheid] cannot carry on.’ He said the first thing he would do was make arrangements to meet Mandela and arrange for his release.”
One of his all-time favourite trips was with Gary Player – to show him the site where he proposed building Sun City, complete with championship golf course to be designed by Player, lake and hotel complex.
“He said: ‘Wow, Sol , so when are we going to do this?’ I said: ‘We will open next year for Christmas.’
“He picked up a big clod of cow dung and he threw it at me and said: ‘You are full of s**t – that’s impossible!’ I said: ‘Gary we are going to do it.’ And I said: ‘What is more, we are going to have our first golf event.’ And of course we did and jointly turned it into what is today the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.
Article courtesy of the Sunday Times