If you have stepped onto the grounds of the Marbella Club Hotel, you know that there is a story behind every inch of this luxury property. It is a hotel steeped in history that was established in the 1950s & 60s, when Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe bought the former Cortijo farmhouse, and alongside his cousin and business partner Graf Rudolf von Schönburg, created the perfect hideaway for Europe’s rich and famous.
Graf Rudolf von Schönburg, also known as Conde (Count) Rudi, became the General Manager of this hotel at only 24 years old. He has spent his life’s work on continually improving the experience for loyal and new guests alike who visited Marbella and this iconic property.
Conde Rudi can be credited with setting the standard as the ultimate host. In the hotel’s beginnings, guests including Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot would stay for up to three weeks, and Count Rudi had to devise musings and events to keep them occupied. “Every week we would have at least three parties; one a treasure hunt, one a fancy-dress party on the beach, and so on. There was always something going on,” said Count Rudi.
This year Conde Rudi celebrated his 90th birthday and has released his memoirs that tell the story of his move from war-torn Germany to the beaches of Marbella and his many encounters along the way. While he is no longer the hotel’s GM, he is still an ambassador and visits almost daily to greet guests and shower the grounds with his unmatchable presence and charisma. In addition to having a plaque in the ‘Boulevard of the Stars’ in Puerto Banus and being a very respected hotelier, Conde Rudi is a family man. He is married to Princess Maria Luisa of Prussia, and together they have two children, Sophie & Friedrich, both of whom have careers focused on hosting and caring for people.
Sophie founded Signne Creative House, a successful event and branding agency based in Valencia, Spain, and her younger brother Friedrich was recently announced as the Managing Director of the newly renovated Rosewood Villa Magna Hotel, in Madrid. Much like his father, Friedrich was Europe’s youngest luxury hotel General Manager at 35 years old in 2020, when he took the top job at El Palace Hotel in Barcelona.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Conde Rudi and our close friend and client Friedrich, who invited us to the beautiful Rosewood Villa Magna to learn about both their careers in hospitality, their passion for service, and valuable perspective on the industry.
Conde Rudi recounted that as a child, Friedrich did not understand why he spent so much time at the hotel. All major holidays, late evenings, and throughout the weekends - Conde Rudi believed that every hotel guest was his personal guest and that he must be present to give them care and attention and to ensure they were happy and would return. Today, incredibly proud of his son, Conde Rudi sees the same passion in the way Friedrich lives his life and his dedication and commitment to guests of his hotel.
For Friedrich, the idea of following in his father’s footsteps began during a worker’s strike in Marbella. With guests still in the hotel and not enough staff, Conde Rudi brought his family and anyone willing to help, including Friedrich who was only 16 at the time, to help out at the property. After watching his father for decades, Friedrich found himself at ease within his natural calling in the hospitality industry and has never turned back. This experience led him to pursue studies at École Hotelière de Lausanne, known as the world’s best hospitality university, and also where his father and founders of The Pelican Club all studied.
After graduating, Friedrich went on to work for some of the best hotels in Europe, including The Savoy, Rosewood London, The Connaught, Claridges, El Palace Barcelona, and currently Rosewood Villa Magna in Spain. While at El Palace, Friedrich infused the hotel with entertainment in a variety of forms; from a Winter fondue chalet to a rooftop movie theatre, live music, and much more. Ideas, whilst his, were influenced by the events his father once hosted to bring the local community and guests together in Marbella. “It is important to get the local community involved and excited to be at the hotel.” Says Friedrich.
Both Friedrich and his father spent more time during our conversation talking about the staff they work with than guests or any other aspect of their careers. “In hotels, it is the staff that make the difference; if they are happy, the guests will be happy,” said Conde Rudi.
They emphasized the importance of treating your team as a family, with compassion and giving every staff member, from dishwashers to servers to managers, a feeling of being a part of something special. This could clearly be seen on a walk through the Rosewood with Friedrich where he constantly stopped to greet and connect with team members. He introduced everyone we passed with confidence and a level of trust that they are the best at what they do. “Respect and recognition are a great motivator” he said.
Both Conde Rudi and Friedrich are unquestionably passionate about their work, the staff, hotels, and taking care of their guests. It is evident to us that being a hotelier is more than a full-time job, it is a mentality and a passion that cannot be taught but that comes naturally, or as Conde Rudi puts it, “it is a love affair, you must work with all your heart.”