International partnership now heads Red Fox Country Club

Published 4:32 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In the new management, Medvedev serves as chief executive officer and Jackson, also a part owner, is the chief operating officer.

&dquo;I am an ambitious guy,&dquo; Medvedev said in an interview last week. &dquo;This course was rated in the top 100. Me and Tony will return it to this famous position. It should be the same. We will do it. We will do it.&dquo;

Jackson recalled last week how Red Fox came to be the beneficiary of such a trans-global connection.

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&dquo;I was pursuing investors,&dquo; Jackson recalled. A mutual friend, Realtor Jim Hess with Re-Max Advantage Realty, was aware of Jackson&squo;s efforts and referred Medvedev, a client he has been working with for the past two years.

Hess said Medvedev had told him he was interested in making further investments in Polk County, but no more real estate. Medvedev had already bought a home site on Cherokee Hill Farm in Tryon, plus acreage for a vineyard he plans to establish on Green Creek Drive in Green Creek and a premium lot at Bright&squo;s Creek Golf Club in Mill Spring.

&dquo;I knew Tony&squo;s (Red Fox) deal and put Tony and Andrey together,&dquo; Hess said. &dquo;Andrey has the financial legs and Tony has the golf course savvy.&dquo;

Still, Jackson was unsure.

&dquo;My first thought was, a guy from Russia. He is not going to be interested in a golf related business because golf is a rare sport and business in Russia,&dquo; Jackson recalled. &dquo;But he was! I had been making hours and hours of presentations with other potential investors. Andrey took one look and said, &squo;I&squo;m in.&squo;&dquo;

In addition to considering Red Fox from a marketing perspective, Medvedev had also been considering its challenging fairways, bunkers and greens with a little white ball and club in hand as one of Jackson&squo;s beginning golf students.

Jackson was right about the chances that the next Russian you meet will happen to be a scratch player.

According to New York Times Magazine, out of 145 million Russians ten years ago there were only a few hundred native golfers and only three courses in that vast country. By 2007, Igor Malyshkov, president of the Moscow Golf Development Federation, reported golf was gaining popularity. In addition to new courses planned for Moscow and St. Petersburg, he said developers have a couple dozen projects in some stage of development near the regional capitals.

Some Russian golf enthusiasts reportedly have even been trying to get Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to come out to the Moscow City Golf Club and hit a bucket of balls.

Unlike Putin, a determined Medvedev may soon be a golfer, but it wasn&squo;t golf that brought him to North Carolina.

It was horses.

&dquo;Some people were born with horses,&dquo; Medvedev explained. &dquo;I was born in Moscow. I only saw horses on TV.&dquo;

He started riding nine years ago, keeping his horses stabled about 40 miles outside Moscow. To pursue greater riding skills, Medvedev traveled to the United States about three years ago to take a six-week horsemanship course at the Pat Parelli school in Reddick, Fla.

The Parelli Center teaches riders a &dquo;partnership philosophy,&dquo; Medvedev said, placing the rider as close as possible to the animal, riding bareback using a hackamore bridle which has no bit in the horse&squo;s mouth.

The skill is to learn pressure points and cues between human and horse.

&dquo;People teach the horse and the horse teaches people,&dquo; Medvedev said. &dquo;I rode for the first time when I was 33. It&squo;s God. One day I felt, &squo;This is a beautiful animal. I like to ride it! I get energy from it!&squo;&dquo;

At the Parelli school, as fate would have it, Medvedev met Sandy Brown, a resident of Caroland Farms in Landrum.

&dquo;I was down there at Parelli taking a two-week course with a couple of friends,&dquo; Sandy Brown recalled. &dquo;Andrey was the first Russian ever at Parelli. We took him under our wing a bit. He was finding English a bit challenging, as you can imagine.

&dquo;We saw him every day in class and out with the horses and he was staying near us. So we spent a good bit of time,&dquo; Brown said. &dquo;I knew of his love of the outdoors and invited him, if he was ever back in the states, to stop in North Carolina.&dquo;

About six months later, Sandy and her husband, A.Y., got a call from Andrey.

&dquo;He stayed with us at our home on Bee Hive Road and really liked the area, thought it was beautiful,&dquo; Brown said. The Browns borrowed a friend&squo;s horse for Medvedev and went on a Hunter Pace trail ride. Medvedev was impressed.

&dquo;In Moscow, we only rode in an arena,&dquo; Medvedev said. &dquo;It is boring for horses, boring for people.&dquo;

After Medvedev described his dream of owning a vineyard, the Browns sent him out to look around with Hess. He came back that night exclaiming that he had found his property.

&dquo;In just one day?&dquo; Sandy Brown asked.

&dquo;That&squo;s just how I am,&dquo; he replied. &dquo;I see, I like, that&squo;s it.&dquo;

&dquo;We did the same thing,&dquo; Brown admitted. &dquo;On a Sunday in 2004, we saw this piece of property and said, &squo;That&squo;s it.&squo; It is unique here. It is the country and horses and yet people also find plenty of access to the arts and culture. We have it all right here. I think Andrey recognized that and felt the warmth, felt very good that this would be a welcoming community where he and Sasha could be embraced.&dquo;

&dquo;I feel he will be a great asset to our community,&dquo; Hess said. &dquo;He makes up his mind and makes it right then. Then he puts it in gear and goes forward. He plans to join our Kiwanis Club when he gets back. He is savvy, sharp, very interesting, very intelligent. He owns a construction company which built office buildings, but I think that came down with the Russian stock market.&dquo;

The Russian market lost 17% in two days in September, 2008.

&dquo;He&squo;s a good guy,&dquo; said Sandy Brown. &dquo;The first time he visited, I came downstairs the next morning and looked out my window and there he was doing Tai Chi in our front yard.&dquo;

Medvedev returns all the compliments. He says seeing the Thermal Belt was love at first sight. He has been back now five or six times with his fianc´e, Sasha, a veterinarian who plans to study for her U.S. veterinary license.

Medvedev was on a plane Monday back to Moscow after his most recent visit, but said he hoped to be living here by November with his two horses. One is a Don, the mount of the famed and feared Cossack Cavalry, known for its incredible stamina, and the other a Trakehner, a warmblood of East Prussian origin, a superb performance horse with natural elegance and balance.

Both horses will soon ride ten hours in the belly of a plane from Russia to the United States and will board for awhile at Joe and Kathy Picone&squo;s barn until August Construction Co. completes Medvedev&squo;s log cabin home and barn at Cherokee Hill Farm. Medvedev will rent until then.

&dquo;On the first visit, I knew I wanted to live here,&dquo; Medvedev said. &dquo;It&squo;s a place of my dream.&dquo;

After working at the top of the corporate world in Russia for years, Medvedev said his dreams are no longer about making money.

Medvedev&squo;s father, now 81 and retired, was an accountant. As a young man, Medvedev was conscripted into the Russian Army for the Soviet-Afghan War, the nine-year conflict which began in December, 1979 under Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev. Medvedev became a paratrooper in the Airborne Divisions, part of a special forces rapid strike force.

&dquo;I lost a lot of my friends,&dquo; he said, shaking his head.

&dquo;He has told me that no young person should have to see what he saw nor to go through what he went through,&dquo; Sandy Brown said.

After the war, Medvedev pursued a law degree, a five-year program in Russia, and then opened a practice in Moscow. In time, he rose to the heights of international business, becoming vice president of SIBUR, a petrochecmicals company with 34 plants across Russia which employs tens of thousands of people. In June, 2003, he was named to the board of directors.

SIBUR is big. In 2008, SIBUR Group&squo;s plants produced 14,791 thousand tons of petrochemicals and 13,306 million cubic meters of natural gas. Income during that year was 173.5 billion roubles ($6 billion), with a net profit of 16 billion roubles ($552 million).

&dquo;I made a lot of money, but I am working as a slave,&dquo; Medvedev said. &dquo;I have no time for children, horses. If there is a meeting on a Sunday, I have to be there, it doesn&squo;t matter what else.

Medvedev has two children, a 20-year-old son studying horsebreeding in the agricultural academy in Moscow and a daughter, 12.

&dquo;One day, I realized, I have enough money,&dquo; he said.

He resigned from SIBUR three years ago and began pursuing his dreams, like horses, gourmet food and fine wines.

&dquo;I like wine madly,&dquo; he says.

He began looking at vineyards in Tuscany, Italy and Bordeaux, France, but at purchase prices reaching $1.5 million to start, they were pricey.

&dquo;Here,&dquo; Medvedev said, &dquo;I have found land for horses and land for a vineyard. In Russia, it is impossible to live with horses. It is 40 miles to where you can have stables. It is very cold. Here I can live near my horses. I can feed them in the morning, groom them. It is very good for relationship.&dquo;

Medvedev is not retiring and giving up all work, though. On the contrary.

&dquo;I will now spend all my time for Red Fox,&dquo; he said. &dquo;It will be a good place for golfer, retired, homeowners, tennis players.&dquo;

Maybe next year, Jackson said, they will install a modern fitness center and pool at Red Fox, perhaps a spa. Medvedev would like to bring a new Red Fox restaurant to the community, to be &dquo;one of the best in the area,&dquo; he said.

Jackson and Medvedev said they do not plan to withdraw any profits for the next two years.

&dquo;We will not withdraw anything,&dquo; Medvedev said. &dquo;It is a good time to improve Red Fox. We must do it now. The recession will close. It doesn&squo;t matter if it is one year, two years, but it will close.&dquo;

&dquo;Actually, there is more local golf being played now, because people are not traveling,&dquo; Jackson said.

That is, not many are traveling. Some are still chasing dreams around the world.