Capital Club is going places

DUBAI — The Capital Club Dubai, an exclusive private business club offering an elegant ambience to mix and meet, is going places.

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Published: Sun 23 Jan 2011, 11:19 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:27 AM

An ambitious expansion drive is taking this premier brand to several international cities.

Russell Matcham, who has been Capital Club’s Chief Executive Officer since January 2010, is bullish about spreading the club’s reach across the globe. In addition to its Dubai and Bahrain premises, the sought-after rendezvous of top business leaders, has clubs in various stages of development in Istanbul, Amman, Cairo, Mumbai and a few other places.

Russell, who is also the co-founder, shareholder and executive director of Signature Clubs International, or SCI, says the Club’s vision is to be Dubai’s premier private business club, while its mission is to set a new standard in terms of style, service, networking, and events.

A qualified quantity surveyor, he has special responsibility for financial management and Club development.

Prior to founding SCI, Russell was the Development Manager in Dubai for Mirage Mille, a leading international development consultancy. Russell joined CCA International in Asia with Guy Guillemard and subsequently in 1997 he joined Club Corp (USA) to oversee the development of clubs in Singapore, Europe and Australia until 2004. With his strong experience in business development, acquisitions, club development and operations, he joined Guy Guillemard to form SCI in Dubai.

While ardently committed to providing high levels of comfort and cuisine, exceptional events and an unmatched level of personal service to his members, Russell says his mission is to turn Capital Club into one of the finest business clubs in the world.

Speaking to Khaleej Tmes, he candidly recounts his evolution from a quantity surveyor to CEO of a premier business club and voices his aspirations about the future of the club. Following are the excerpts from the interview:

You have worked for a number of different firms from all over the world, and with people with varying nationalities. What would you say is the most important thing you have learnt through this experience?

I think the most important thing that I have learnt is the importance of understanding and respecting different cultures. I have been privileged to work all over the world, and one of the things you learn in such a situation is that people might be the same everywhere, but practices can be vastly different — what is considered normal and polite in one country may be considered outrageous or rude in another.

For those of us who work in the hospitality industry, this is particularly important because our job is to make sure that people are comfortable and at ease, and we cannot do this if we are not intensely aware of cultural norms. And in these days of globalisation this awareness of different cultures is even more important, as there is a lot of travel and every one of these guests needs to be understood and made to feel welcome.

How do you move from quantity surveying to Club management? Was there anything in particular that pushed you in this direction?

I wouldn’t say there was anything in particular pushing me, no.

I have always worked in the hospitality industry, and the move from Quantity Surveyor to CEO of a private business club has been gradual, and a sort of natural progression, with the nature of my responsibilities and interests evolving as I continued to work in the industry.

I started out as a Quantity Surveyor for McIntosh Latilla Carrier & Laing back in 1987, and my responsibilities included working on hotel developments in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands.

In 1003 I became Project Manager at CCA International and was responsible for a number of Club Developments (city, family and golf clubs) in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In 1997 I joined ClubCorp as Director of Development & Operations and for the next seven years I oversaw the evaluation, development and operations of a number of club developments (mostly golf) in Japan, SE Asia, and Australia. In January 2005 I came on board at Mirage Mille as Development Manager for the Old Town Island part of the Burj Dubai (Burj Khalifa) Development, which was my first real exposure to working in Dubai, and in February of the following year Gill and I formed Signature Clubs International.

So as you can see, although the change in direction may appear large, in actual fact it was a natural change that took place slowly over two decades.

Capital Club’s vision is to be Dubai’s Premier Private Business Club. What sets it apart from other business clubs in the emirate, the country and the region?

The Capital Club is Dubai’s premier private business club, designed to meet the demands of those from the top echelons of business, finance and government — those who are powering the region’s growth and turning Dubai into the business hub of the Middle East.

Capital Club follows proudly in the tradition of exclusive private clubs, where members mix, meet and entertain in elegant and comfortable surroundings. Offering an elegant and welcoming ambience in which to mix and meet, exchange ideas and entertain guests, the Club is committed to the highest levels of comfort and cuisine, exceptional events and an unmatched level of personal service, at home and abroad.

In addition to what the Club itself offers members, we have also formed strategic relationships with selected organisations for the benefit of club members, including ART Marine, the leading marine hospitality company in the Middle East, and Dnata’s Holiday Lounge.

We also have a reciprocal club programme with International Associate Clubs (IAC) that gives Capital Club Members access to over 200 superb private city, city athletic, country or golf clubs of the highest calibre worldwide.

You and Guy Guillemard formed Signature Clubs International in Dubai. What made you decide to start up in the UAE?

The UAE — and Dubai in particular — is a major business hub that attracts top businesspeople from all over the world, and so it made sense for us to open up an exclusive private business club here that would cater to these businesspeople and offer them the exceptional personal service to which they are accustomed.

Where do you see Capital Club progressing over the next five years? Will you be opening any more clubs in the region?

I think Capital Club will continue to grow in both size and popularity, not only in the Middle East region, but spreading out across the globe. In addition to our clubs in Dubai and Bahrain, we currently have clubs in various stages of development in Istanbul, Amman, Cairo, Mumbai and a few other places, and a number of these will be opening officially within the next 5 years.

If you had the chance to speak to the region’s youth, what advice would you give them?

Never be afraid to aim for what you want. If you are willing to put in the hard work required and keep your eye on the goal, then you will be able to achieve anything that you can imagine.

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