Field Guide: Louise MacBainS

If you're looking to carve out a slice of media pie for yourself, it helps to enter the game already blonde, tall, attractive, and rich. French Canadian ... well, that's got its ups and downs. Meelionaire art-cult entrepreneur Louise T. MacBain runs LTB Group, which holds in its portfolio Art +Auction, Modern Painter, and the website artinfo.net among other properties. She operates various cultural foundations and sits on numerous corporate and institutional boards. Most recently, she launched Culture & Travel magazine, hiring former Conde Nast potentate James Truman to run the ship; trouble is, he almost immediately jumped ship, "inspiring" MacBain to actually come visit his vacant New York office from her digs in London. But if there's anyone more snobby than media snobs, it's art media snobs, and MacBain pretty much gets it from all sides no matter how much of her copious cash she throws around.

MacBain has a history of very profitable divorces, though her personal trade was investment banking. Her first hitching was to David Stewart, heir to the RJR-Macdonald family coffers. That went south in the 1980s, but she re-upped with one John MacBain, and the two founded the wildly successful Trader Classified Media. By the time the MacBains divorced in 2000, the missus took out her 22% share of a company that published hundreds of publications worldwide, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. After a brief flirtation with an auction house (and the auctioneer in chief), MacBain in 2003 started buying up art mags and art as part of a "philanthropic spending spree."

However, the forced entry by fiscal means into the London art world put some noses firmly skyward, sniffing. Judd Tully, an Art + Auction contributor, remarked of that time, "She was really trying to make it in that British upper-class aristocratic society, and they just hated her because she was Canadian. People were just cutting her down while sipping her champagne." Most unseemly! At least some of the flinty upper crust softened for MacBain, notably Prince Andrew, with whom she allegedly conducted a "40 percent" secret affair.

Perhaps tired of British rejection, it appears MacBain is shifting gears Stateside, with staff and resources of her company moving to New York. She's even contributing to the Huffington Post! Unfortunately, artinfo.com, meant to be "the Bloomberg of the art world," appears to offer little threat to its main competitor artnet.com ("crappy, crappy, crappy competition" says the latter of the former). And we hear rumors that MacBain is trying to sell her Hamptons home (recently featured in Vanity Fair) to publicity stormtrooper Donny Deutsch of all people. Still, New York media is a bottomless pit for spendy millionaires, so bring on those Canadian divorce dollars. Plenty of highly cultured people who need a little help with their coke habit.

UPDATE: The Baer Faxt reports a rumor that "LTB Media will either be buying or taking over The Armory Show," the annual art fair at Chelsea Piers. Coincidentally, the New York Post mentions MacBain's most recent personnel rearrangements and supplies a slightly less airbrushed photo than that above.

Field Guide: Louise MacBain