Magazine article Newsweek

Mr. Chips in America: Can This South African Out-Trump Donald?

Magazine article Newsweek

Mr. Chips in America: Can This South African Out-Trump Donald?

Article excerpt

Can this South African out-Trump Donald?

AS HE TALKS, SOL KERZNER CONSTANTLY fingers silver worry beads, his crutch since kicking a three-pack-a-day habit a few years back. The South African entrepreneur does have worries. Kerzner, a barrel-chested former boxer, makes his debut this fall as America's next gaming mogul--and a serious East Coast rival to Donald Trump. With two big casino deals in Atlantic City and Connecticut, Kerzner is suddenly poised to tempt gamblers from their money at two ends of one of the nation's most populous corridors. But he faces huge risks as well, including fresh allegations of bribery back home that could delay or derail his investments.

Kerzner's journey to America has been a decadelong odyssey. The owner of splashy resorts in France and the Bahamas, he tried to crack the U.S. market in 1988, only to get chased out by a hail of anti-apartheid protests. But in the last few years Kerzner's Sun International Hotels has, like many other South African companies since the end of white rule, roared onto the global investment scene. In late August, Kerzner announced he was buying Merv Griffin's much-troubled Resorts Casino Hotel for some $350 million in debt and equity--and will spend hundreds of millions more on a brand-new complex. And early next month he will open the $300 million Mohegan Sun Casino on a Connecticut reservation.

The deals are fraught with risk. Atlantic City is already suffering casino overload, and Kerzner must share profits with the Mohegan tribe on a complex sliding scale. …

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