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Butch Kerzner Killed - January 0-, 2006 – 12: 1
Butch Kerzner, who with his father Sol created the Atlantis dream for the Bahamas, was killed yesterday in a helicopter crash in the Dominican Republic.

He was with one other passenger and two pilots on the aircraft when it just "fell from the sky" in bad weather, according lo reports.

The news stunned his Nassau friends and associates as they remembered "the great guy with great vision" who helped his father revamp the Bahamian economy in the 1990s.

Last night, a business analyst said: "It's a massive, major loss. It's true to say that, without Sol and Butch Kerzner, the Bahamas' economic surge ten years ago might never have happened."

Close friends of the man whose "ordinary bloke" demeanour concealed enormous business know-how were comforting his wife Vanessa as Atlantis executives tried to take in the full impact of the tragedy.

Butch, 42, also leaves two children - son Tai, nine, and daughter Kailin, five - and is survived by his mother, Mrs Maureen Adler of New York, brother Brandon and sisters Beverley, Andrea and Chantal.

One friend said: "It's hit all of us really hard. We are still shaking. He was like a son to us." Butch, president and chief executive of Kerzner International, was in the Dominican Republic to investigate the possibility of an exclusive One and Only Club there.

He was with a business friend in one of two helicopters visiting possible resort sites when they hit inclement weather. According to reports, the smaller of the two aircraft just "fell from the sky", killing all on board.

Sol Kerzner, who was in London when he heard the news, was last night flying directly to the Dominican Republic before returning to the Bahamas.

Butch's fellow passenger in the doomed aircraft was named as Delio Luis Gonzalez. They were looking at potential development sites when the tragedy ocurred. Mr Gonzalez also leaves a family - wife Carola and a six-month-old son.

For the Bahamas, Butch Kerzner's death means not just the loss of a likeable and extremely able entrepreneur, but also the man who was effectively the future of the Kerzner business.

While Atlantis was very much Sol Kerzner's vision, it was Butch who in recent years took on the everyday running of their expanding resort empire.

He and his father recently engaged in a $4 billion buy-out to take the business off the New York Stock Exchange into private ownership.

And he was the man who in future would have controlled not only the company's Paradise Island resort, which employs 6,000 Bahamians, but also new resort and casino properties in Dubai, Singapore and Britain.

Butch took over as chief executive in January, 2004, succeeding his father, who remained chairman. For eight years before that, Butch was the company's president.

Eric B Siegel, a Kerzner board member, said at the time: "As president, Butch has led the company through a period of growth and profitability, while Sol has focused most of his time on the conceptualisation and development of new projects.

"Butch shares Sol's vision and passion for our business. His in-depth knowledge of the company, combined with his overall leadership and business acumen, makes him the ideal person to lead the company through our next major growth phase."

In his chief executive role, Butch oversaw daily operations and drove new growth initiatives.

At the time, Sol Kerzner said of his son: "I am very excited about the transition taking place, 40 years to the day that I finished building my first five-star hotel, the Beverly Hills in South Africa.

"I am proud of Butch, who has demonstrated his management and financial savvy. This transition has evolved for quite some time as Butch has been performing the role of chief executive over the last few years."

In a statement last night, Kerzner International said it was "with great sadness" that it announced Butch's death.

It added that Sol Kerzner was heading for the Dominican Republic before returning to the Bahamas.

A close friend, Robert Carron, said: "Butch and Vanessa were an amazing couple and Butch was one of the most dynamic, intelligent, sincere and down-to-earth people I have ever met.

"He captured you with his charisma, drive for life and love of his wife and family. We shall miss him greatly."

By: John Marquis, The Tribune