Ambitious plans to upgrade the Moscow Country Club, 5 star golf club, made by new top executives of GlavUpDK at the Russian Foreign Ministry, a commercial organization subordinate to the ministry, ended in the putting up of signs that prohibit the use of toilets. The plaques reading ‘Dangerous to Life!’ which had been apparently removed from the electrical panel became a barrier to an out-of-service urinal in the men's room of the Moscow Country Club fashionable country house hotel. Similar signs appeared in other WCs of the five-star establishment -- none of them worked. Recently, the hotel’s guests have also seen the picture. The photos depicting what is going on there are attached to their reviews on the Internet. Alas, these photos are perfect illustrations of the current state of affairs at the once famous golf club. For ten years, officials of GlavUpDK have been promising to completely update it. However, they have not managed to get around to it somehow.
Moscow Country Club in Nakhabino, a township near Moscow, was opened in 1994, and its hotel hosted the first guests in 1996. Its owner GlavUpDK at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia under the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs involved Starwood Hotels & Resort, an American company, which was absorbed later by the Marriott International Group. The prestigious prefix Le Meridien was added to the name of the country club. It indicated that this facility belonged to one of the most luxurious hotel chains in the world.
Before 2011, Le Meridien Moscow Country Club fully justified its status. However, in the fifteenth year of its existence, when the normal wear and tear of interiors and equipment had already become noticeable, the officials of GlavUpDK decided to take matters into their own hands. They refused to sign a new contract with American Starwood Hotels & Resort and took direct control of Moscow Country Club. It became a branch of GlavUpDK. A couple of months later, workers with angle grinders and electric hammer drills cut the Le Meridien logo from the front of the main building of the golf club.
Judging from media reports dating back to those years, Vladimir Pashko, head of GlavUpDK, was the main initiator of the refusal to outsource the services. He was appointed to the post right in 2011. Pashko was one of the few public leaders of that agency who began to give numerous interviews almost immediately after the appointment. Moreover, in each interview, he consistently spoke about the plans to revamp Moscow Country Club.
“The task for the next few years is to renovate the countryside hotel complexes: the Zavidovo recreation complex and a golf resort in Nakhabino," he told a reporter of ITAR-TASS.
“I am inspired by the work ahead,” Pashko said in an interview with Moskovsky Komsomolets. “Frankly speaking, the current state of the Le Meridien Moscow Country Club complex is far from perfect. I mean cottages, the hotel, the sports centre and the golf club itself. Of course, everything has to be renovated. It is necessary to breathe new life into sports facilities, to upgrade tennis courts and volleyball and basketball courts. As for the cottages on the territory, they are also outdated in terms of interior. We are going to build six new houses in the same style but more well-designed.”
However, even at that time, some of these revelations of Pashko could evoke only a smile. “I am a professional builder who has always dreamed of becoming a diplomat,” Pahsko said in an interview with Moskovsky Komsomolets. Thereby he informed that he was not an expert either in diplomacy or in the hotel business.
Therefore, it is not surprising that during the years of his tenure in GlavUpDK, the situation in Moscow Country Club has not been improved at all. However, Vladimir Pashko managed to become famous for other "achievements" that forced him to leave his post amid a scandal. Thus, in 2015 he became one of the main figures in the collective letter to Vladimir Putin that exposed overall corruption. Pashko was called a “proven swindler” in that letter receiving “kick-backs of $1.5 mln per year.” As the authors of the letter wrote, “in the process of bidding contests for capital construction and reconstruction, purchases of office equipment and account materials, computers, cars, furniture, medical and other equipment, with the help of administrative resources, employees of GlavUpDK cancel out competition on the right of performance of works and services. The contracts were signed with the organizations controlled by themselves or front organizations which then outsource the works or services to other affiliated businesses. Meanwhile, a certain sum of money goes to officials as bribes.”
It was also reported that Pashko and key employees of GlavUpDK had illegally raised their salaries, which “according to the most modest estimates, resulted in illegal spending of about 16.5 mln rubles ($212,820,300) of state funds per month.”
This letter gives a self-explanatory answer to the question: why did American Starwood Hotels & Resort fail to sign a new contract the contract for controlling of Moscow Country Club? Chances are it was necessary to add a huge kickback” to the inevitable cost of updating the complex. Understandably, Starwood Hotels & Resort was not satisfied with those rules of the game.
Elena Zaritskaya, Pashko’s successor as a head of GlavUpDK, did not stay at this post long. Besides most of the time, she had a prefix “acting.” However, it should be noted that she significantly supported the sports activities of the golf club. Under her leadership, the importance of competitions held there has increased, and the golf course received several prestigious international awards at the World Golf Awards: in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
This is not a surprise. Zaritskaya started to work at the Foreign Ministry after the Sochi Olympic Games, where she was in charge of the Olympic facilities. Together with Bernie Ecclestone she launched Formula One in Russia. That is, Zaritskaya did her job well. However, the hotel itself with its rooms, cottages, restaurants and toilets continued to deteriorate.
After Sergey Makarov, the next head of GlavUpDK, took this office, Yuri Volkov was appointed director of Moscow Country Club’s branch. From the first days, he announced plans of “conceptual improvement of the unique resort complex.”
The improvement confined to the fact that the infrastructure of the golf club began to be leased to lessees. For example, restaurants. From the point of view of the hotel business, it is nonsense: all over the world the organization of catering in a hotel brings its owner no less profit than the accommodation itself (of course, if it is properly organized.)
However, the officials from GlavUpDK seem to have their own ideas about the hotel business, and it turns out to be a new trouble. On the night of March 13, the Klyushka Restaurant that was placed under the management of a private company, burned to the ground. The fire almost spread to the entire hotel complex. As reported by ITAR-TASS agency, it was caused by non-compliance with fire safety rules. The order from the Ministry for Emergency Situations on this matter was received by Moscow Country Club literally two weeks before the fire.
The same elements of infrastructure for which there were no lessees, are disappearing gradually. There is no children's zoo for which the golf hotel used to be famous. The beauty salon has closed. There is one massage room left from the whole spa treatment complex. It works a couple of days a week. There is no more karaoke club. When it rains, the roof over the pool leaks. The rooms do not have toothbrushes and razor sets. Each time it is necessary to tell the personnel to bring them. Guests no longer receive "compliments" in the evening. All these are indispensable attributes of the hotel that presents itself as "5 stars." "The furniture is old, the beds are uncomfortable, and the plumbing needs to be replaced," this is what tourists returning from the Moscow Country Club sadly say leaving feedback on booking sites and social networks.
Apparently, executives of foreign policy should make more systematic decisions in this situation. The personnel issue in Moscow Country Club and GlavUpDK is becoming even more acute than before. The hotel in so poor condition is inevitably becoming or has already become the unprofitable asset on the balance sheet of the state. Besides, the prestige of the Foreign Ministry is being damaged. The damage caused by the current activities of hotel managers and their superiors in GlavUpDK is a sufficient reason to take tough and comprehensive measures in order to remedy the situation. If this is not done, reviews and photo reports of dissatisfied clients will continue to appear on the Internet, and what used to be a prestigious hotel will finally come into disrepair.