Kings of the Caribbean: Sol Kerzner, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, Andrew Farkas

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Sol Kerzner
Kerzner International

Atrip to Atlantis leaves little room for doubt that Sol Kerzner is the reigning king of destination resorts in the Caribbean. Haute Living had the opportunity to meet with the hotel magnate last summer just prior to the launch of The Cove, the new intimate resort on Kerzner’s own Paradise Island. During that time, the hotel magnate personally overlooked every detail of the opening, going so far as to rearrange cushions and request plants be moved in his quest to ensure perfection.

This constant strive for greatness is evident in every aspect of mega-resort Atlantis, which is often called a Disneyland for adults. Kerzner first visited the island decades before acquiring it, and was able to see the endless possibilities the island offered, despite other developer’s failed attempts at creating an internationally lauded destination. “I had been to Paradise Island in the late ’60s, and I always said, ‘What if?'” Kerzner explains. “So I said to Paul [O’Neil, Kerzner International COO], ‘This is fantastic. You have the beach right here with an amazing ocean.’ So we spoke with the investment bankers in the early ’90s in hopes of acquiring it.” On the island, Kerzner built a resort inspired by Plato’s legendary accounts of a wealthy civilization presided over by Poseidon’s sons, where arts, sciences, and beauty flourished. And based on Kerzner’s vision, today’s Atlantis is the world’s largest open-air marine environment with 20 million gallons of salt and freshwater, 100,000 square feet of world-class gaming and convention facilities, and more than 2,900 rooms. In the past 10 years, more than five million visitors have passed through its gates.

That number increases exponentially every year, especially since the launch of The Cove, which brought A-listers in from around the globe. The Cove is the sophisticated new resort within the Atlantis enclave, but in many ways, The Cove mirrors the offerings at Kerzner’s luxury brand, known as One&Only. “I think in many ways The Cove could be a One&Only resort. But we didn’t want to sell two brands at one spot, which is why we decided to call it The Cove, Atlantis.”

Any One&Only resort can be considered the anti-Atlantis. “We have the opportunity to offer very unique, very high-end hotels in different destinations with One&Only. This is not a destination resort: it is a destination, but not like Atlantis at all.” In the Bahamas, One&Only operates the Ocean Club on Paradise Island. In addition, One&Only operates top-notch resorts in Mexico, Mauritius, Maldives, and Dubai, where Kerzner International is also in the process of building a second Atlantis. So in fact, Kerzner could be called king of more than just the Caribbean.

Gordon “Butch” Stewart
Sandals Resorts International

Gordon “Butch” Stewart has long been heralded as a tycoon of the tropics. As founder and chairman of Sandals Resorts International, his empire, the largest in the region, stretches from one end of the Caribbean to the other. The mogul has been lauded as the King of All-Inclusive Resorts, but let’s be honest: in many people’s minds, all-inclusive means long lines, cheap food and drink, and sub-par amenities.

Sandals is working hard to eradicate those notions through an all-inclusive luxurious experience where no want goes unanswered. This new Luxury Included campaign is evident in each of SRI’s resorts in the Caribbean region, which includes the family-friendly Beaches brand as well as the newly launched über-luxe brand, Royal Plantation. The Sandals portfolio encompasses a billion-dollar, privately owned Jamaican-based empire that includes 20 Caribbean resorts and several dozen diverse companies. What started out as an air conditioning business has grown into the Caribbean’s largest private enterprise with approximately $1 billion in sales and revenue for 2007 with a 20 percent growth in visitor arrivals, which may be partially attributed to the repositioning of Sandals as a luxury brand. And nowhere is the Luxury Included experience more evident than in the collection of new suites in Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, and the Bahamas.

“This is a defining moment for Sandals Resorts,” explains Stewart. “We have moved beyond the all-inclusive category and the often maligned all-inclusive connotation.” This is not to say that Sandals will not continue to be all-inclusive. Quite the contrary: meals, drinks, activities, gratuity, and more are included. Adam Stewart, Butch’s son and current CEO of the SRI portfolio, explains, “The concept of all-inclusive has no definition. Sandals includes everything and not just everything, lots of everything.”

The Luxury Included campaign has raised the status of SRI in the eyes of every traveler who has had the Sandals experience in recent years-and considering that each of the resorts continually operate at near-capacity, that number is staggering. These guests have had the opportunity to experience amenities like private plunge pools and Jacuzzis in newly renovated suites; partnerships with the likes of celebrity designer Preston Bailey, Rolls-Royce, the Guild of Professional Butlers, Beringer Wines, Waterford Crystal, and Red Lane Spa; and dining options that will satisfy even the most obscure cravings.

The new Million Dollar Suites at the Sandals Regency in St. Lucia epitomize the Luxury Included concept. Adam describes the suites as “a great example of the heart and soul of this organization.” These four new accommodations combine 700 square feet of indoor living space with 400 feet of outdoor, completely erasing the lines of inside and out through movable beams that make the doors completely disappear. Built high on a cliff with dramatic 280-degree views of St. Lucia, the suites offer complete privacy for “two people in love.”

With Butch’s children now heavily involved in SRI, with son Adam as CEO and daughter Jaime as managing director, Butch has ensured that the heirs to the throne are prepared to continue Sandals’ impressive legacy throughout the Caribbean…and possibly beyond.

Andrew Farkas
Island Global Yachting

With the construction of an astounding number of marinas worldwide, Island Global Yachting is sailing to the top of its industry, thanks to the innovative vision of Andrew Farkas. It was Farkas’ love for the water that sparked a revolution in the megayacht marina industry, a revolution that has redefined luxury marinas throughout the Caribbean and around the world.

“I spent a tremendous amount of time in my younger years living in Jamaica,” Farkas explains. “We went boating all the time.” His familiarity with the Caribbean region has long been a defining characteristic, and his love of the water is significant. An avid lifelong boater, Farkas was ecstatic when he reached a level of success in his life that allowed him to charter boats. “1992 was the first time I chartered a large vessel in the Caribbean. From that point forward, I was chartering boats whenever I could and going into every nook and cranny.

“I spent as much time as I could sailing around the Caribbean or Mediterranean, but one thing occurred to me: there was nowhere to put the boat,” he explains, the level of frustration evident in his voice even all of these years later. “Even marinas where you could put the boat had very little resources, very little service, very limited utilities, and everybody was competing for the same spaces. Typically people who own megayachts like to be able to go last minute, and you just couldn’t. You had to plan well in advance. And even if you planned in advance, competition for the space was fierce.”

Like any ambitious businessman with capital, Farkas decided to fix what ailed him. Thus was the birth of Island Global Yachting, a company that focuses on the design, development, acquisition, and control of megayacht and other luxury-class marina facilities in key yachting and nautical tourism areas around the world. “Island Global Yachting was founded with a vision to elevate the level of megayacht and luxury-class marinas worldwide,” says the corporate backgrounder, and in that vision they have succeeded.

The first project IGY tackled was Yacht Haven Grande in St. Thomas, which opened in March 2007. Construction of the marina began in 2004, although the acquisition process dates back to 2001. “The US Virgin Islands are amongst the most popular cruising grounds in all of the Caribbean, but lost their position of preeminence in yachting because a series of hurricanes destroyed a number of venues that were not properly insured,” explains Farkas. IGY went to work securing the properties and creating the first yachting-oriented resort destination in the Caribbean, and the largest urban redevelopment project that the Virgin Islands have ever seen.

Aptly called the “playground by the sea,” the property boasts more than 5,000 feet of state-of-the-art megayacht dockage with a plethora of amenities that bring the center above that of its competition, which is virtually nonexistent. While the offerings are certainly a focal point at Yacht Haven Grande, the main idea behind the facility is service. “The staff here has been trained not as dockhands, but as five-star hoteliers. They really understand hospitality.”

The property not only includes the marina, but also an esplanade with three restaurants and 80,000 square feet of retail space home to luxury boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Coach, and more. Twelve waterside condos, two tennis courts, a putting green, swimming pool, and office space round out the offerings.

In addition, IGY has been staking out a worldwide monopoly when it comes to these full-service marinas with Yacht Haven Grande being the ideal prototype. Today, they have properties operating or under construction in Montauk, New York; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; St. Lucia, West Indies; St. Martin, Netherland Antilles; Virgin Gorda and Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Anguilla, British West Indies; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Muscat, Oman; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Cem Kinay
O Property Collection

Despite his Turkish roots, Dr. Cem Kinay is quickly becoming one of the reigning monarchs in the Caribbean region, thanks to his innovative resort ideas. “I like the idea of one hotel concept, one island,” says Kinay, chairman and CEO of O Property Collection, the brand behind the anticipated Dellis Cay.

The world waits for the Dellis Cay project with bated breath for a variety of reasons. First, Kinay has compiled an all-star cast of architects for the project, including Shigeru Ban, David Chipperfield, Carl Ettensperger, Zaha Hadid, Kengo Kuma, Piero Lissoni, and Chad Oppenheim. In addition, Kinay chose Mandarin Oriental to head up the resort’s management before he even chose a spot for the hotel. “One of the main decisions for [O Property Collection’s] business model was that we will not manage the hotels. On one side, we are design driven, but on the other side, we are service driven and these guys at the Mandarin, they really know their business.”

After locking in Mandarin Oriental, Kinay contacted the impressive list of designers to work on beach houses and villas before he had even decided on a location for the resort. Once he diligently selected the team and could rest assured they would produce the highest quality project, Kinay shifted his focus to working tirelessly to uncover the perfect location for O Property’s first project. For six months, he used helicopters, boats, and a sturdy pair of boots to thoroughly investigate 100 undeveloped properties in the Caribbean. Finally he laid eyes on the 560-acre paradise of Dellis Cay. A pristine island snuggled in the Turks & Caicos archipelago, it is known for its multihued coral reefs, faultless beaches, and dramatic bays. The first time Kinay laid eyes on the island, he knew he had found the home for O Property Collection’s first project. “I said, ‘This is exactly what we are looking for,'” he recalls.

The project broke ground in 2007 and is set to open in 2009, and more than 30 percent of the property’s residences have already been sold, but Kinay is not satisfied. “I’m sure in the next 10 years, we will make two or three more projects in this part of the world,” he says. And when he does, Kinay will further cement his place among the rulers of the tropics.

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