Sochi willy-nilly: how Viktor Vekselberg became an Olympic investor

The billonaire has arranged an excursion around his hotel complex for Forbes and talked about the construction and who he was waiting for in his hotels. 
Origin source
Olympic history billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, perhaps the most significant for the Russian public-private partnership. Businessman - one of the largest investors in megastroyki, appeared in the draft against their will, and at the suggestion of the state, from which not refuse. The construction "in the open field," he proceeded, when the neighbors already have the first stage of the projects were to give up. However, their participation billionaire does not regret in the Olympic race.

Personal request

This story could well not take place: Viktor Vekselberg, in March 2010, headed "Medvedev's" Skolkovo project, initially avoided involvement in the organization of the beloved brainchild of Vladimir Putin - the Olympics. In place of his resort Azimut Hotel Sochi - three- and four-star hotels - a former owner of the Cherkizovsky market in Moscow Telman Ismailov had to build the largest complex of premium hotels in Russia (according to various estimates, from 4000 to 5600 rooms, investment of about $ 1 billion). But the luxurious palace and remained a sketch on paper. After a six-month hot discussion revealedaxis, that it will not be at all. In December 2010, Putin amended the Sochi project, and the "Group AST" Ismailova has disappeared from the list of Olympic Investors.

The company "Top Project" Vekselberg appeared there by chance. Olympic Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, for which care Ismailova became a headache as an acquaintance told Forbes billionaires and government officials, faced with Vekselberg in the waiting room at the prime minister, leaving Putin's cabinet. Seeing businessman moody Kozak cheered and returned to the prime minister's office. Less than an hour later, Vekselberg has received an offer that was impossible to refuse. The argument was about the following: "Vit, you're a builder? Help Dima, he has a problem. " "Offering this was, it really is the right person in the right place", - confirmed by a representative Kozak: the fact that the project is executed in such a short time - great service "Renova".

Vekselberg himself in response to a request for comment on this story mysteriously smiles:
- In life in general, much depends on the case and unexpected encounters <.br /> - Do not you regret that you got involved?
- Well ... everything is already done. Why regret?
Together with a reporter Forbes billionaire inspected the readiness to receive guests of the resort the morning of February 7 - a few hours before the opening of the Olympic Games.
Virtual world
September 17, 2011, Viktor Vekselberg and CEO "Top Project" Sergei Gogolev stood in the Imereti Valley Adler middle of the field, rolling into the swamp, and fended off mosquitoes. "That's around here somewhere brick laid," - Vekselberg in black corduroy pants and a light green cashmere sweater looks around the Square, next to his broken Azimut Apart Hotel Sochi.
The legacy of the former owner of it has got 36 hectares of land and preliminary design of the hotel "style Ismailova ': palaces, domes.
- To adapt?
- Redo - quips businessman.
Examination of the project also had to take place in the second round, so that by the construction started only in early 2012.
At the start of the Olympic project wishing to participate in the development of money in Sochi was a lot, but by 2012 it became clear that not everyone will be able to earn,and began a reverse process. In addition to high-profile stories such as the disappearance from the list of investors Olympic Ismailova and removal from all posts investor jumps and mountain resort "Gorki Gorod" Ahmed Bilalova happened many less notable departures. Only the operators of the hotel at the "Top Project" changed three times: the company feared that the resort does not sell, and began to raise demands that threatened the project rise in price by 10-20%: the number of rooms to expand, the furniture more expensive to buy. The contract with the current operator - a network of Azimut Hotels Alexander Klyachin - was concluded in May 2013.

Built by the end of 2013, a complex of hotels on 3600 numbers cost 16 billion rubles was the biggest in Europe. At the time of the Olympics all the rooms in the hotels are busy. What will happen after the question for everyone.

- In Sochi, a huge share of the market occupied by the private sector, I remember: removable rooms, 15 minutes from the sea, - says Vekselberg, walking through the complex adjacent to its waterfront.
- I had to shoot?
- Of course, it was necessary. I am a normal Soviet man: he lived in Sochi, slept on the balcony, shem cot stood. So I think that our "treshka" quite reasonable for many people. Well, yes, to the sea 700 meters have to walk - will walk the same? I went.
The businessman only remains to hope that the love of his potential visitors to the apartments pedestrian walks across the street. The second major surprise to the businessman (except for the participation in this project) was that, in fact, it is necessary to build not one but two hotel complexes in Sochi. The area which has got Vekselberg granted, was divided into two parts understudy Resort prospectus, passed along the coastline.
- What could not say, "Have a conscience, to me this project and so imposed"?
- Yes, said Medvedev personally and promised to help. But in the end it came down to the fact that "let us live through the Olympics, and then decide." What decide the way something is not budge.
- But you promised something in return?
- We live in a virtual world, conceptual, so there was no formal promises. But at least we have now has an argument in talks with the government. Although as far as he will be heard & mdash; question.

Whose turn is it to pay

With project funding, too, it was not so smooth, as they think about the "construction of the century". "If you think that on such an important project for the country VEB money" like a gun "gave, you are deeply mistaken", - says Sergey Gogolev. According to him, two years building the bank suspended funding of 20 times. Investors had to negotiate with contractors operating in debt, and that - with subcontractors. Who is right and who is wrong, often figured out in public, meeting at weekly meetings at Kozak, Managing preparations for the Olympics in the manual mode.

Vekselberg, including the Olympic construction in one of the last, was the first who fell under the special financing conditions. When the state in an emergency mode changed lagging investors and contractors to "reliable", he asked the government to counter the request: to allocate to the project loan in the amount of 90% of the necessary funds. Other investors, the proportion of equity and credit investments accounted for 30% to 70%.

- Well, that is it was originally 70%. AThen all said that they, of course, failed, and gradually the number has gone up at all - says Vekselberg. - In our case, it stopped at 90%. But if we increase the project, it is at our expense.
- But you have kept within the stated 16 billion rubles?
- Almost. Why "almost"? We do not have clearly defined, at which point it is necessary to draw a line and stop.
- Fascinated by the construction?
- No. Just do not immediately said the state "stop". See how was: here we passed the object, and then begins operation. Now we need to start, buy equipment, and that tens of millions of dollars in capital costs are not included. The money for operating expenses can be obtained from VAT, which we paid during construction, and now the state of his returns. A bank once said: "Give the VAT!" But there is also the concept of the transition period, to operate, then we have no money, you are we are not giving them. And they are: "And that's all, it's your turn to give!"
- Do not give?
- Once they agreed, as long as they do not take, and then we'll see. The next two years we notsentam do not pay, and then begin to transfer the proceeds to VEB. When I say 'we', it is all investors: Potanin, Gref, Deripaska. Conditions all about the same, this is true.
- But the interest for these years simply piling up, and will not be charged?
- Of course, we have no one so far has not forgiven anything. This vacation credit. And no other solutions.

Square meter 100 000

Vekselberg is no stranger to the performance of "national importance of projects." In 2010, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev entrusted the billionaire construction of public innovation city Skolkovo. Projects can be compared, although realized in Skolkovo 10 times slower, says investor entering the VIP cottage with private pool on the territory prigostinichnogo Ecopark. Here it is, the Olympic speed: a few days ago there was a "box": a wall, a heat gun and concrete screed. Now it is completely packed room: bright rooms, plasma, full-length king-size bed with a pile of pillows.

- And why are you not in the VIP-house live?

- Well, firstly, sweatCB yesterday that he was not ready yet - with a smile acknowledged innkeeper.

The main difference innograda Medvedev from Putin's Olympics - the latter is positioned as a business project:
- It is possible to argue that not done so in Skolkovo and how it would be better and cheaper. But no one will talk about payback, because it is not there originally. And here we were given money in the debt, and the government insists that it is a commercial project and the money should go back.

How to recover? "Good question," - grins investor. Confidence in the future of a businessman, there is only one of the objects of Sochi - hotel for 720 rooms. Assuming an average annual occupancy of 55% and the cost of the hotel rooms 5500-8500 rubles (as they stand during the games, to raise prices the owners will not be), the object will block for 8-10 years.
- If the people believe in Sochi - and yet we have a great country, and fine furnished areas are not so much - then go here to rest, - said Vekselberg. - The main thing - to win the competition with Turkey and Egypt, and it is necessary to develop a service for this andkeep prices at the middle level.

"Top Project" has already thought about the service: the complex has a spa, several restaurants and cafes, a nightclub, which is engaged in the games under the "Dutch House". Guest from Amsterdam meets Vekselberg Dutch beer and says:
- Here we are waiting for the Dutch, who, we hope, will be a lot of winning and win gold medals ...
- Modest, modest medals - jokingly lowers her enthusiasm Vekselberg. But output adds: - Maybe the Dutch are we going to start to ride?

Less certain situation with a "three-star" apartments, which account for 80% of the entire project. After the Olympics, they will be converted into an apartment, the cost per square meter which can not be lower than 100 000: infrastructure is expensive. Revenue from the sale must go to repay the loan VEB. That is, if the apartments will be sold. If not - will have to pay them to the bank.

Sochi against Egypt

On the territory of Azimut Hotel several restaurants. Most respectable audience to call in Sochi INSptions and semi-official visits, loved "Graf Orlov" with Russian cuisine. After a friendly hockey match here regaled the presidents of Russia and Belarus, and after the opening ceremony of the Olympics Russian borsch with gorilka and royal soup with caviar Vekselberg and his wife ate in the company of a conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre Valery Gergiev and pianist Denis Matsuev, the staff places tell. Recently the restaurant Vekselberg seen in the company of another investor megastroyki Putin, Vladimir Potanin. The theme of the discussion was a drinking ROI: Businessman talking with the president about the possibility of changing the law so that Sochi has become a venue for meetings of shareholders and boards of directors. Previously, the idea attributed to another participant of Olympic construction, German Gref.

Fresh ideas there: everything revolves around the creation of Sochi special economic zone, gambling organization and subsidizing air travel, says one of the members of government meetings. Engage in Sochi is necessary not only tourists, but also new residents.

& mdash; We need people to run the federal resettlement projects with the northern territories - said Vekselberg. - I'm going out with these proposals to the government, but so far received no response.

We plan to create in the Sochi Olympic Reserve School, may develop in the area of ​​rehabilitation resorts. But even if the ideas are realized, investors still rely on financial support from the state.
- There is so much money has been invested, but in normal life in Sochi, no one would have ever spent. And, anyway, this money is expensive, 10% of the loan for many businesses.

Vekselberg said that half of the payments on the loan the state should take over. The head of the Sochi project its Sergey Gogolev insists that all must be subsidized interest rate. So far, the response to all the proposals one: wait and see what will be in Sochi housing market, and it will solve.

- Do not you think that this is not a good Russian trait - we do not know how to develop the region progressively, and can only throw it forces all over the country? The development of such projects is obtained whenit is given the status of national importance.

- I do not agree. Without state support similar projects have never been realized in the world. Just taking into account the Russian cultural features, we support measures are somewhat different. For the rest of the world a form of billions of dollars loans from the State Bank looks nonsense, but in fact they have just these costs immediately included in the budget. I do not think the size of funds spent on Sochi somehow extraordinary.

Vekselberg is recognized that on-line Sochi project is not supervised. However, the city is often visited, "as far as the psychological need - I'm a living person, I experience." Arriving at the Olympics with his wife Marina, Forbes lists of participants staying at "slightly superior room on the 7th floor" of his four-star Azimut Hotel Resort & SPA Sochi.
- And what impressions? Friedman to his guests in Sochi will call?

- Let's be realistic. We live in the best locations. This is nothing extraordinary there - and it is certainly not for those people, which includes Friedman. Sochi must become a obschedoFeet spa for the average citizen - that's what should be its main "trick", as the young people say.

Businessman came to the Olympic construction in voluntary-compulsory, the state has fulfilled the request, but the project seems to be not one of his favorites. The question is, what is now the state will respond.