harryshuster

Harry Shuster grew up in Johannesburg South Africa. Graduated from Witwatersrand University  1955 and admitted as an Attorney of the Supreme Court of South Africa in 1958. Practiced as an Attorney in Johannesburg South Africa,  till he left with his wife and three children for the United States in  1965.

He took up residence on Miami Beach Florida,.  He primarily left for the USA to   establish the Lion Country Safari  as a tourist attraction at West Palm Beach Florida on 650 acres of what was the swamp land.  The park was opened in 1967 and became an instant success.   It continue to flourish to this day. Shortly thereafter in 1970 Harry Shuster and his family moved to Beverly Hills California and built the second Lion Country Safari in Irvine California.

The project was built on about 500 acres of land on the 405 Freeway at the Irvine center Drive exit. The land was leased from the Irvine Company on a long term lease of 29 years. The Lion Country Safari projects was immediately successful and as a result, it was decided to build the projects across the United States. Shuster took the company public in an IPO and raised several million dollars for expansion. The Holding Company was renamed United Leisure Corporation.  During the ensuing 5 years parks were built in Grand Prairie Texas, Atlanta Georgia on property purchased by United Leisure Corporation. Other than the Irvine project,  All the real estate for the Lion Country Safari parks were owned by the Company. At about the same time as the new parks were being opened Jimmy Carter was appointed president of the USA, and shortly after that , the country suffered the first oil embargo and the rationing of gas/petrol. Since Lion Country Safari was a “drive through” Safari Park, and with Petrol being rationed the attendance at all parks dropped dramatically. At the same time interest rates shot to astronomical levels. The resulting drop in attendance impacted the cash flow of Lion Country added to the high interest rates, created serious problems for the Company in serving its debt. The redeeming factor which ultimately “saved the company” was the land values on the real estate increased dramatically. The company was able to sell the “recently opened “ Safari parks in Grand Prairie and Atlanta, and the successful park in Florida and with the proceeds was able to discharge its debt obligation s. The company was left with a long term lease in Irvine, the safari park was closed  and the company was able to introduce new entertainment activities on the property, including “Wild Rivers” a major water park, which still exists. The Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, now called the Verizon. The Company also established a summer camp for Children and a corporate picnic facility. All these projects were successful, and continued to allow United Leisure to succeed, pay it obligations and remain profitable.  The Irvine Challenged  the right of  Lion Country under the lease agreement  to develop these activities, and significant litigation endured over many years. Lion Country was successful in the litigation process and held the property until the lease expired in 1997. It also received under a settlement with Irvine a significant amount of compensatory damages.

During his many years living in Beverly Hills, Shuster became involved in producing and/or executive producing  in excess of 15  theatrical movies including WANDA starring Barbara Loden, which won the International Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1970.

In the late 1980”s Shuster acquired the ailing chain of Loves Barbeque  of restaurants. The chain consisted of 6 corporate stores and 12 franchises. Shuster was able to turn it round, and successfully sold the chain to a Japanese Company that were seeking to enter the Barbeque restaurant .

In the early 1990’s Shuster in a joint venture with a group of investors from Beverly Hills, acquired 8 acres of real estate on the Las Vegas Strip,  at the Convention Drive corner. The parcel included the Silver City Casino, amongst other tenants  The Property was  opposite Circus Circus and next to the Riviera Hotel. It was a cross the way from what is now the Wynn hotel.   Shuster was able to make a deal with the Elvis Presley estate for the use of the name GRACELAND and plans were made to develop Elvis Presley’s Graceland on the property. Unfortunately the financing for the project  could not be raised at that time. The Wall street “experts” said that “Vegas was overbuilt” this was before the Bellagio was built, Mandalay and New York-New York not to mention the Monte Carlo and off course now the City Center.  However, Shuster and  the Group received a significant offer the property which almost doubled its investment  over a three year period, and they decided to sell.

In the late 90’s Shuster decided to retire and moved to Las Vegas, however, is retirement was short lived, he acquired  an 8 acre parcel of commercially zoned property and developed a shopping center with several national big box tenants including Chuck Cheese, Thomasville Furniture’s AT&T and others. Shuster had the good fortune to sell the center before the recent property collapse.