MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Hotel Metropol, a Moscow landmark with a past as varied as Russia’s turbulent 20th century and a guest list ranging from revolutionaries to foreign presidents, was sold into private hands on Thursday.
The five-storey Art Nouveau jewel, built by an industrialist and art patron at the turn of the 20th century, sits just off Red Square, opposite the Bolshoi Theatre.
Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin gave speeches there and the officials who lived and worked in the hotel after the Russian Revolution of 1917 included Nikolai Bukharin, who was later shot after a show trial.
The Soviet Union’s first constitution and the words of its national anthem were written in the building, according to its website.
The hotel was auctioned off by the city of Moscow as part of a privatization program for 8.9 billion roubles ($276 million) to a company acting for hotel entrepreneur Alexander Klyachin, Moscow’s property sales department said.
The five-storey building’s facades feature painted mosaics, carved reliefs and ornate iron balustrades. Inside, there are marble walls, grand chandeliers and glass elevators.
Over the years, guests have included George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, Sharon Stone, Giorgio Armani, Pierre Cardin, Elton John and Michael Jackson - as well as U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Nightly rates for the 362 rooms range from 14,000 roubles ($435) for an ordinary single to 80,000 roubles ($2,500) for a presidential suite.
Klyachin already controls the company that manages the Metropol, and is also chief executive of Russia’s Azimut Hotels.
A source close to Klyachin said there were “no particular plans for now” but that “the building will remain in the current condition, the edifice will remain intact.”
On the street outside the Metropol, Australian tourist Shirley Kohn gushed about the hotel.
“Coming from the airport, all the buildings along the road are so ugly, the streets and traffic lights need serious work - and then you get to this beautiful place,” she said.
($1 = 32.1714 Russian roubles)
Additional reporting by Olga Sichkar; Editing by Kevin Liffey