ONE of the great characters who helped shape the modern Marbella is Count Rudi von Schönburg a descendant of a family that was for generations part of the Holy Roman Empire.
His mother wanted him to join the diplomatic service and his uncle wanted him to become a banker, but he was having none of that and went to the prestigious Ecole Hotelier in Lausanne, Switzerland which was founded in 1893 and is still going strong.
Having qualified, he took up a position at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hamburg and was staggered when his cousin Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe-Langenburg booked into the hotel and spotted him.
In short time, the Prince explained that he had just set up a 20 room hotel on the coast of southern Spain and it was known as the Marbella Club, catering mainly for his rich and famous friends.
Whilst Prince Alfonso was happy to travel around the world, promoting the hotel which was really more a club for him and his friends, he needed someone who was trained in the latest developments in the hotel trade who he could trust.
It wasn’t a difficult decision for the young man and on December 28, 1956, Count Rudi as he is affectionately known, arrived to take up his new post in Marbella and he has remained in his favourite city since that time.
Both he and the Prince were inspired by the thought of helping to create a welcoming and comfortable home in a city that would not become ‘cheap and tatty’ but would attract some of the most affluent and educated guests many of whom would later become residents.
In 1961, he was appointed General Manager and is proud that what was effectively a rather run down olive grove in a backwater town has become an oasis of calm and luxury in the city that he considers to be one of most attractive in Spain.
Whilst the Prince found the guests, Rudi was in charge of looking after them, making sure that they were happy and regularly returned to the hotel thanks to the very personal service that the staff was able to give.
When the Spanish courts seized the estate of arms dealer Adnam Khashoggi, Rudi was persuaded to take up a new role at the exclusive gated development of La Zagaleta in the Benahavis Hills above Marbella.
He stayed there for 10 years but when his cousin was ready to sell Marbella Club, Iraqi born businessman David Shamoon who had prospered after moving to the United Kingdom offered to buy the property and the more recently added Puente Romano hotel on the strict understanding that Count Rudi should return and work with his family.
So in 1993, Rudi returned to his beloved Marbella Club as a board member and personal adviser to Mr Shamoon, later becoming President of the company and he has been at the heart and soul of the Marbella Club ever since.
As he has grown older, he has resigned from some of his roles, including being involved in the running of Puente Romano but is now a general adviser to the Board.
Rudi is a regular figure at Marbella Club, attending most days to observe the running of the hotel and holds weekly meeting with the manager and chef to discuss the events of the week and to pass on his suggestions and observations.
Looking back, he now realizes that he actually followed the wishes of his mother and uncle as he has had to be a diplomat with guest and to manage finances for the group.
He still loves the hotel and the city and has no problem with advising the council on matters which he thinks are of importance, especially in the area of high rise buildings which he is totally opposed to.
His whole philosophy over the past 61 years has been to ensure that guests receive the best service, a good bed, spotless bathroom, attractive gardens to enjoy and a familiar and calming atmosphere.
This must have been a good recipe as over the years so many members of different royal families as well as actors, socialites, musicians and captains of industry have been regular visitors to Marbella Club.
In his own words “Every guest is a king and every king has been a guest.”