Reports of unfinished hotel lobbies and unsanitary drinking water have been pouring out of Sochi — much of it from journalists tweeting about water main breaks and ongoing construction at hotels for the media. One of the lawyers behind the new Hyatt Regency Sochi has had her own front row view; she says the hotel hopes to start taking reservations this week.
Laura Brank, a veteran real estate and project finance attorney who leads the Russia practice for U.S. law firm Dechert, advised Hyatt in getting the hotel as well as other infrastructure and tourists sites in Sochi built before the Olympics. As an attorney for Hyatt, Brank negotiated with the owner of the building, a Russian company, to construct and manage the 199-room hotel.
“There’s a long-standing Russian tradition — there used to be ‘five-year plans’ in the Soviet Union and the joke is that nothing gets done for the first four years and everything gets done in the last year,” said Brank, who has spent much of her career working in Russia. “That’s what we’re seeing happen right now.”
Brank, a Georgetown Law alumna, splits her time between Washington and Moscow. She has represented Hyatt since the late 1990s, working behind the scenes to advise the company on construction for several Hyatt hotels in Russia and Ukraine. This was the first time she has worked on a project built specifically for an Olympic Games.
“In general, the challenge in working in Sochi is just the massive amount of construction that’s been going on at the same time,” Brank said. “You’re doing this when people are competing for resources like contractors, and you have a hard deadline you have to meet. You don’t have that in every project, where you’re building for a specific purpose and if you don’t meet a certain deadline, there are huge consequences to that.”
The idea behind the Hyatt in Sochi was to have a long-term investment that goes beyond the Olympics, Brank said. Sochi is also slated to host the Russian Formula One Grand Prix and the 2018 World Cup.
But don’t expect to see Brank in Sochi this week to witness the fruits of her labor. When asked if she would be making the trip back for the Games, she was adamant.
“No,” she said. “I hate lines.”