Despite all the publicity, prestige and impact on international public opinion, and despite the sponsorship of Bayer and Italtel, the Kremlin Cup was not a ﬁnancial success. The revenues did not even cover the expenses.
Gollar: After we lost a lot of money in the ﬁrst Kremlin Cup in 1990, I pushed Sasha and Sasson to make an appointment with the prime minister to arrange sponsorship, and we got into the textile business.
When all the guests had left, Sasson and I stayed, and had an appointment with Silaev in the “white house.” Igor Volk came too, and more or less repeated his Kremlin Palace speech, complaining that nothing was working, and thank God he was there to save the day. Sasson got very angry again, but Silaev seemed to be unimpressed with Volk’s words. He was very cordial, asked Sasson and me how we liked Moscow, and asked me if I had any special wishes. He then thanked Sasson very much with these words:
“You brought the sun in these very dark days in our country.”
Then Volk started ranting again, going on and on about how many guests used the minibar and didn’t pay for it, and the worst — some guests bought very cheap caviar in the black market and paid in rubles. At that time paying in rubles without a permit was a criminal offense for tourists. He was informed about everything: which of our guests took how many grams of caviar, who took how many bottles of what from the minibars. I don’t know how he had access to all this information!
Silaev nodded impatiently, and then made a gesture with his hand ordering Volk to shut up, said, “The meeting is over,” and released Volk. We told him we will probably not continue with the tournaments, because we lost a lot of money. But he said again, “Please, continue the tennis tournaments in our country. We need the sun in our country, tell me what you need, I will help you.”
Silaev was a good tennis player and a tennis fan, but more than that, as head of State he realized that in a country that has nothing, the only thing the people had was watching tennis on television and some cinema. The Kremlin Cup also changed the image of Russia in the whole world — from the dark gloomy country behind the iron curtain to a country where famous tennis players play.
That evening, we went with Sasha Vainstein and his wife Lida for a walk on Arbat Street in Moscow. Sasha said he would have never believed we would have such a big success in the tennis arena. He was very content. Sasson and Vainstein were stars in Moscow at that time.
From Arbat we went to the Metropol Hotel, next to Red Square, where we stayed after the tournament. There we met Yuri Matkof, the hotel director, who also became our personal friend. Today the Metropol hotel is one of the most beautiful art-deco buildings in the world. It was built in 1915 and was not destroyed in any of the wars, but at that time it had been under renovations for 2 years. We spoke with Matkof about the possibility of making his hotel a sponsor for the next tournament. Matkof was not very enthusiastic about the idea.
In those days, every order that came from above, had to be done. So we assume he didn’t get such an order, because the Metropol was never the sponsor hotel for our tournament. For the next tournaments, we had an agreement with the Penta Hotel, a 5 minute walk from the stadium, and we even had an office there.
Sasson: After Igor was out of the picture, Golli, Sasha and I had another meeting with Prime Minister Silaev. It was a historical meeting. We had breakfast in the Russian White House, and Silaev asked: “What can I do for you?”
I said: “Unfortunately we cannot continue with the Kremlin Cup. Because we were so occupied with the Kremlin Cup, we lost a lot of precious time when we should have taken care of our own business, and lost a lot of money. We need either sponsorship from the government or business opportunities in Russia.”
Silaev said: “Tell us in more detail: what amount are you talking about? How much business do you want?”
I said: “Five million dollars.”
Gollar: Sasson, the modest, goes to the prime minister of such a huge, rich country and says I want a business of 4–5 million? I couldn’t understand it!
Sasson: On the spot, Silaev called his secretary and asked her connect him with the minister of economy. Then he said to the minister, “I’m sending Sasson Khakshouri to you, please give him a $5M opportunity.”
I went to the appointment at the ministry. They gave me a list of products they need: a few million dollars worth of winter clothing for farmers. My brother Nissan was happy to hear about it and make his way to Turkey, where he purchased a large stock of leather coats and sent them to us in Russia.
Gollar: In the end, Sasson was right not to ask for more. The only mistake we made was — we should have bought something from them. We could have asked for anything, and they would have given it to us. Because when you buy something, you pay and get something, and when you deliver you have to count on them to pay. They didn’t have money to pay, but could deliver goods very easily. In 1991 came the putsch, and they didn’t deliver the last payment they owed us. It took a lot of effort and constant calls to the ﬁnance department and other government offices, until I ﬁnally managed to get the payment. Had the deal been a bigger one, we wouldn’t have gotten the money at all. So Sasson’s modesty turned out to be the right thing.