Re-Imagineer #2: Owen Lipstein

You had great early success as a magazine publisher in the 1980’s… launching American Health and other magazines, winning General Excellence awards, and being called the wunderkind of the industry. Then you left the industry for 22+ years. Tell us what you did next

I harbored a still unrequited love of Shakespeare. So, I bought 90 acres of riverfront property on the Hudson River with an exceedingly ambitious idea: to build a theater, (literally), produce and direct the bard. In my own way. The entity became Shakespeare on the Hudson—and a critical success.

I, also, taught myself (out of necessity) how to operate large bulldozers and excavators. I have always aspired to be an earthmover.

In the second half of your life’s journey, you started a new family and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. What prompted the move out West? 

Maggie Fine unexpectantly showed up at Shakespeare on the Hudson—scouting a location for her film project. I was hosting a party of actors who were marooned (they were from Canada) on a pirate ship, anchored at my house.

Maggie and I have been together ever since. We were married the following September and we were pregnant six months after that. In due time, Maggie told me “our child must be born within the lay line of Santa Fe”—where she herself was born and raised.  I didn’t know what a lay line was—let alone why it mattered. Nevertheless, I responded in a singularly correct way: “OK.’’

Now in your 70th year, you and a partner have launched what I would call a spectacular new magazine format with Santa Fe Magazine. Here you go again, innovating in the publishing world!  Tell us how you decided to step back into publishing with your magic touch!

I loved Santa Fe from the moment we arrived. There was and still is something ineffable about the place. 

I met John Miller, a publishing veteran.

We became drinking buddies over margaritas at a local dive bar: There was no hometown city magazine, we observed. Why not do a magazine about the people who live here, using their words? If we did it right, we would have a chronicle of the city. We tried to talk each other out of it. Who starts a new magazine, when whole parts of the print magazine industry are approaching extinction?

We wanted it to be a quarterly, to match the seasons, we wanted it to be a large and rich format—without news, without ranking, scoring, editorials or reviews. We would do it ourselves—no staff.

One more thing: My daughter Charlie, who is now approaching her 5th birthday, seemed a little suspicious when I told her that I had published magazines and that I had once been good at it. 

I am an unrepentant show-off. I wanted my daughter and my wife to see what I could do.

I am glad to have found dry land and my first real home. It took Odysseus 20 years to make it back to Ithaca.

There is nothing as entrepreneurial, nothing as humbling and startling as starting a new family at my age.

I’m all in.