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Cigar Industry

Shanken Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award by Association of Magazine Media

Feb 6, 2019 | By David Savona
Shanken Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award by Association of Magazine Media
Photo/Jonathan Lockwood Smith
Marvin R. Shanken, left, with his new lifetime achievement award that was given to him Tuesday night by Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Condé Nast International, right.

Marvin R. Shanken, the chairman and founder of M. Shanken Communications Inc., was presented with the lifetime achievement award by the Association of Magazine Media last night in downtown Manhattan. Shanken is the editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado, Wine Spectator, Whisky Advocate and Market Watch magazines, as well as many print and digital newsletters.

After a video introduction by famed sportscaster Jim Nantz, Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Condé Nast International, introduced Shanken and presented him with the award.

“Marvin belongs to the elite coterie of magazine makers, the geniuses of our business,” said Newhouse. He praised Shanken’s long history in publishing, particularly his refusal to compromise editorial integrity for advertising revenues. “In today’s media landscape, where the walls between ads and edit are nonexistent, Marvin maintains an iron curtain.”

Shanken’s publishing success story began with the modest acquisition of a wine and spirits industry newsletter called Impact in 1973. The book had annual revenues of $10,000, and Shanken bought it for $5,000 with money he borrowed from his sister Elaine and her husband, Danny. He later acquired the struggling newspaper Wine Spectator, which was later redesigned into the glossy and successful magazine it is today, broadening its focus from the wines of California to the wines of the world, and adding lifestyle coverage. 

In 1992, he founded Cigar Aficionado despite the objections from those at his company, and it was profitable from the start. Shanken’s company has grown considerably, from a struggling, small publishing house to one with millions of readers. 

With all this achievement has come philanthropy. Shanken’s Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation has raised more than $25 million, his Cigar Aficionado Night to Remember dinners have raised more than $20 million for prostate cancer research and the Els for Autism Pro-Am, which he created with pro golfer Ernie Els, has raised more than $10 million for autism in only 10 years. Its centerpiece is a school in Jupiter, Florida, called the Els Center of Excellence, that currently has 260 students. 

Shanken’s acceptance speech was brief, and he was visibly emotional from the honor. He gave a special thanks to his wife, Hazel, and his daughters Samantha, Allison and Jessica, who were in the audience with their husbands. He also thanked the employees of his company. There were eight in the audience who had worked for him for more than 30 years, and another eight who had been with him for more than 20 years.

“I wouldn’t be here without all the people who are here that have given their lives to M. Shanken Communications,” he said. “Right now I’m just overwhelmed, and thank you all for coming.”

At the conclusion of the event, all in attendance were given a glass of Nikka From the Barrel Japanese Whisky (the whisky of the year as named by Whisky Advocate) for a celebratory toast.

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