|Evening Standard, London|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 26, 2003 - Legendary South African hotel magnate Sol Kerzner is likely to hand over control of his Kerzner International empire to his son by the end of the year. But the move to promote Butch Kerzner to the post of chief executive will not mean an end to the career of the man they call the Sun King.
"I will remain as chairman, doing what I love best, new development projects. There's a good chance this will happen by the end of the year," he told the Evening Standard.
Denying charges of nepotism, 67-year-old Kerzner, most famous for his Sun City whites-only resort built near Johannesburg in the days of apartheid, said: "He is highly qualified and he got where he has got because of his performance, not because he happens to be my son."
Butch, 39, spent six years working in mergers and acquisitions on Wall Street before joining his father's business, where he already does most of the day-to-day running of the business.
He will take the chief executive title at a time of dramatic expansion for the group, which plans to open a second hotel, casino and theme park based on the Atlantis myth. It will be constructed on one of the two palm tree-shaped islands currently being built in Dubai.
The new Atlantis will be close to condominiums recently bought by David Beckham and Robbie Williams, and the hope is that it will replicate the success of the first one in the Bahamas.
Kerzner expects British tourists to be the biggest group of visitors to the new Atlantis, making up as many as 40 percent of the clientele.
Meanwhile, Kerzner and his wife Heather are looking to return to South Africa, which they quit in the late 1980s to take his empire overseas.
Allegations have followed him since he left that he bribed his way to a gambling licence in the former Transkei homeland. The charges were recently dropped after he took the case, which he now describes as "an irritation", to court.
Kerzner International, the overseas division that split from his Sun International group in South Africa, is quoted on the New York Stock Exchange but could fall victim to the turmoil at major shareholder Caledonia, the Cayzer family investment vehicle .
Kerzner refused to be drawn on the current battle within Caledonia, which has seen rebels led by 71-year-old patriarch Sir James Cayzer attempt to force a break-up of its assets.
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(c) 2003, Evening Standard, London. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. KZL, CDOVF,