Howard Kerzner, 42; Led Kerzner International, Developer of Resorts
Howard “Butch” Kerzner, chief executive officer of resort developer Kerzner International Ltd., died Wednesday in a helicopter accident in the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas-based company said. He was 42.
Kerzner was surveying the Caribbean nation for potential hotel sites. Resort and casino operator Kerzner International has stakes in five resorts in Mauritius and one in Mexico and manages a resort in Dubai. It developed and owns nearly 70% of the Bahamas’ Paradise Island, home to its 2,300-room Atlantis casino resort, which includes a man-made marine habitat and 60 acres of pools.
Kerzner took over as CEO from his father, company founder Sol Kerzner, in 2004. The company went private in September, when the Kerzners led a group of investors in a $3.8-billion buyout.
“He was a great visionary,” said casino developer Donald Trump, who called Kerzner a friend. “He was one of the few sons who was able to stand up in terms of talent to a great father, and you don’t see that much in my business.”
Another passenger and two pilots also died in the accident, which is under investigation.
Born Jan. 27, 1964, in Durban, South Africa, Kerzner grew up and was educated in Johannesburg and obtained his master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University. He held permanent residency in the Bahamas and is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and two children, the company said.
Sol Kerzner built a casino empire in the poor South African homelands that included the controversial gambling resort Sun City, which opened in 1979. Artists who played there, including Frank Sinatra and Rod Stewart, were accused of breaking cultural boycotts imposed against the country to protest apartheid.
The company also developed and receives income from the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn., and is one of several bidding to build a casino resort in Singapore.