He was said to be "in Kerzner's pocket". There can be no denying the success of Sun City, with its simulated earthquakes and 7, imported trees. Kerzner delighted in holding elaborate extravaganzas there including world heavyweight title fights and Miss World contests, and playing host to celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli, as well as to countless politicians.
Not that everyone was quite so keen to accept Kerzner's lavish hospitality. Many saw Sun City as the hideous, patronising and manipulative face of apartheid. By his third marriage, to South Africa's first Miss World, Anneline Kriel, was on the rocks - amidst rumours of a stormy and violent parting.
Unbowed, Kerzner celebrated his 50th birthday in August that year by chartering a Jumbo jet and flying friends to Mauritius, where he had established a casino-hotel. On the flight he replaced the stewardesses with strippers. In December , Kerzner was embroiled in fresh bribery allegations, this time that he paid the then Prime Minister of Transkei, George Matanzima, to gain exclusive gaming rights there.
Matanzima was jailed for nine years and a warrant was issued for Kerzner, but he was never to stand trial. Although Kerzner eventually admitted paying the money, he insisted that it was extorted from him.
Not long afterwards, he began to remove himself from South Africa, initially selling his hotel chain but keeping Sun City. Kerzner settled on the Bahamas where, with backing from the Cayzer shipping family, he bought a resort on Paradise Island and started work on what was to become the uniquely graceless Atlantis resort. It has lagoons featuring sharks, sting rays and barracudas, as well as a six-storey-high fake Mayan temple containing a 60ft water slide, not to mention hour gaming halls.
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A lifelong a-day smoker, Kerzner had a heart attack in at the age of 54 and has not smoked since, replacing cigarettes with a now ever-present string of worry beads made out of solid gold. But the illness didn't slow him down, or cause him to lose his appetite for the company of beautiful young, women. With the long-legged Californian supermodel Christina Estrada, now 39, at his side, Kerzner flew round the world in his private jet, expanding his luxury hotel chain and investing one last time in South Africa, where in he launched the equally over-the-top Lost City, complete with artificial rain forest, alongside Sun City.
With his Atlantis project in the Bahamas under way, he also targeted the U. The loud-mouthed Kerzner had lost none of his ruthlessness. Even though he had formally proposed to Estrada, he dumped her early in , and shortly afterwards married her best friend, New Yorker Heather Murphy, who was then 33, half his age. There seems little doubt that Kerzner - "a toad, but one who's happy about it" in the words of one City figure - will become as controversial a wealthy friend of the Labour Party as Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, and the Hinduja brothers before him.
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