Louise Blouin MacBain's first empire, Trader Classified Media NV, was built on the somewhat mundane, but very profitable, foundation of classified advertising. This time around, though, she's focusing on the definitely more ethereal, but potentially just as lucrative, world of art. And unlike her previous entrepreneurial venture, when she worked alongside her (now former) husband, John MacBain (see story opposite page), she's doing it solo.
“If you do things right, they are profitable at the end of the day,” says MacBain, on the phone from London, where she was catching a plane to attend Art Basel Miami Beach, the North American edition of the Basel art fair. MacBain launched LTB Holding Ltd., her vehicle for making a name in the art publishing world, in 2001. She then went on a buying spree soon after selling her 22% holding in the Trader Classified business, including multiple voting shares, to her ex in 2004. Around that time, she announced her intention to create a company with an expected enterprise value of Û500 million. To understand MacBain's business strategy, think of an arts publishing empire combined with the culture equivalent of a Bloomberg terminal, supplying collectors with up-to-the-minute data on art transactions.
LTB promotes culture around the world through 20 periodical magazines ? including Art+Auction, considered one of the world's most influential art magazines ? 30 annual publications and more than 120 book titles, which reach an audience of more than 14 million. It also has an Internet site, artinfo.com, that combines with the publishing arm to provide a marketing platform for the arts, working with more than 2,000 museums and galleries worldwide. MacBain, speaking with an accent that reflects her Quebec roots and current London residence, says that her goal is to develop a group of vehicles to provide greater art market data, trend analysis, news, and financial and investment information to the arts community.
MacBain, who sits on the board of directors of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and was at one time linked romantically to Prince Andrew by the British media, is very much part of the global cultural giltteratti. She began collecting contemporary art 15 years ago, and as part of Trader Classified's business strategy, acquired the Rossini auction house in Paris prior to bidding on New York-based Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg auctioneers in 2000. MacBain has reportedly pumped US$30 million into her Louise T. Blouin Foundation to promote greater understanding of the arts, with the idea that it will lead to more harmony in a world filled with strife. While it's obviously a philanthropic gesture, getting more people interested in the arts is not a bad way to build a business.