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Bittersweet celebrations for hotel magnate

  • Story Highlights
  • Hotelier, Sol Kerzner, celebrates launch of new Bahamas development
  • Tycoon back at the helm after death of son, Butch in helicopter accident
  • $1.5bn development, Atlantis, The Palm Dubai due to open next year
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(CNN) -- Billionaire hotel magnate Sol Kerzner is celebrating the successful launch of a new all-suite development at his hotel in the Bahamas.

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Sol Kerzner in the Bahamas celebrating the launch The Cove

Hollywood stars like Sean Connery and Lindsay Lohan turned out for the glitzy opening party of The Cove, Paradise Island's 600 suites.

The development was the brainchild of Kerzner's son, Butch who died in a helicopter accident in October 2006.

For Kerzner the launch has been a bittersweet experience:

"We experienced exciting times, we experienced tragic times and difficult times and it's not always that easy to move along but I think its very important to try as best one can to," Kerzner told CNN.

Kerzner started building hotels and casinos in South Africa in the 1960s and handed control of a multi-billion dollar empire, Kerzner International, to his son in 2004.

After Butch's death he came out of retirement to return to his previous role as CEO of Kerzner International: "It seemed to me and the board that it would make sense for me to step back in as the CEO and I am please that I have done that," Kerzner said.

Over the years Kerzner's many business ventures have put him in the media spotlight.

Last year, he and Butch led an historic $3.2bn public-to-private buyout of Kerzner International using private equity.

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"My son Butch and I felt about a year back that there was a lot of opportunity for public shareholders to do really very well, share prices were great ... private equity was prepared to back us tremendously to do well for our shareholders and investors who wanted to come along with us but in a private format, " he said.

Some of his other ventures like the 1979 Sun City casino resort in South Africa have been more controversial.

Recently there have also been failed casino bids in Singapore and a pending bid in England.

Despite this, even Kerzner's detractors consider him a man of vision.

Butch inherited his father's business acumen and his legacy remains in the One & Only branded Reethi Rah resort in the Maldives.

He pushed forward the project to reclaim 60 per cent of the island's 44 hectares. The luxury destination now has twelve secluded beaches.

Kerzner International is continuing to grow and its best-known brand, Atlantis, is being expanded internationally.

Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, a 1,500 room extension of The Palm, Jumeirah costing $1.5bn is expected to open next year.

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So, for now, retirement is far from Sol Kerzner's mind:

"For me my life would never be the same following the death of my son Butch and at the same time one has to move forward. For the foreseeable future I will continue as CEO of my company." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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