Casino bid to proceed despite Kerzner's death

Kerzner International’s bid for a Singapore casino licence will proceed despite the death in a helicopter crash of the firm’s chief executive officer, the company said on Thursday.

“The company is fully committed to continuing its bid for the integrated resort in Sentosa,” Kerzner said in a statement after the death of Butch Kerzner (42).

He died along with two pilots and another passenger when the helicopter crashed in the Dominican Republic while surveying potential development sites for the company, the statement said.

“It is with great sadness that the entire company mourns the tragic loss of Butch Kerzner,” it said.

Paul O’Neil, former chief executive officer of the company’s largest operation in the Bahamas, has been appointed acting CEO of Kerzner International Holdings, effective immediately. He is a member of the company’s board.

Kerzner International has teamed with Singapore’s CapitaLand, Southeast Asia’s biggest property group, for the Sentosa bid.

A team from Genting International-Star Cruises, part of Malaysian casino operator Genting Group, has also bid for the project.

The third contender is a partnership between Las Vegas firm Eighth Wonder, Australia’s Publishing and Broadcasting and Hong Kong’s Melco International Development, and Isle of Capri Casinos.

A winner is to be announced by the end of the year.

Kerzner is developer, owner and operator of Atlantis, Paradise Island, a 2 317-room island resort and casino complex in the Bahamas. Kerzner is currently extending the Atlantis brand to Dubai.

CIMB-GK analysts have said the Kerzner team stands a “decent chance” at succeeding in its bid for Sentosa.

Another analyst, Winston Liew of of OCBC Investment Research, said that because Kerzner has vowed to continue with its bid, the CEO’s death should theoretically have no impact.

“But I think operationally there could be issues,” or delays in decision-making at the firm, Liew said.

In a 2004 article about the company, Forbes magazine said the younger Kerzner was embarking on an international expansion of the company after taking over as CEO.

“We have some very bold projects,” the magazine quoted Butch Kerzner, a South African citizen, as saying.

After filing the bid on Tuesday, Tobin Prior, president of Kerzner’s international division, told reporters that his team plans “a unique integrated family resort that we hope will be a must-see destination for the region”.

Liew Mun Leong, president and chief executive officer of CapitaLand Group, said they filed “a bold proposal” with the help of prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, designer of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Kerzner did not say how much it will invest. - Sapa-AFP

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