An Irish castle in County Cork and Joan Rivers’ $28 million Manhattan penthouse are two of the properties featured in Leading Estates of the World magazine, which is now owned by Chris Webster of Santa Fe, NM and Owen Gwyn of Chapel Hill, NC.
Webster, a Santa Fe Realtor for 37 years, was asked to become a member of the company’s Estates Club in the 1980s. He and Gwyn acquired Leading Estates of the World in March from Bob and Pam Kelsey, who founded the company in 1969 and produced 100 issues of the magazine.
“The Kelseys were great publishers,” Webster said. “One of their priorities was to use and publish large photographs, and we plan to continue with that emphasis.”
The first magazine, titled The Renaissance Issue, came out in late July. Webster’s son, Christopher Webster III, served as editor-in-chief. It boasts photo-strong features about high-end listings in Santa Fe and a dozen other states and in Canada, Mexico, Portugal, Morocco and many other countries.
Two of the most expensive properties in this issue are Oak Spring Farm, the Virginia estate of Paul and Bunny Mellon, available for $70 million; and the W.T. Waggoner Ranch — more than 530,000 acres — in northern Texas, offered for $725 million.
“We even have a property that Leonardo da Vinci spent time in,” Webster said. “He engineered and oversaw the installation of garden walls at a fortress [in Livorno, Italy] that was built in the 1400s. He was there in 1502, the year before he began painting the Mona Lisa.”
The magazine also has an article about the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust written by its founder, Richard Jenrette, and a spotlight on the Millford Plantation in Pinewood, S.C. An article about Nicolas Pakzad and the House of Bijan exemplifies the new owners’ idea to bring elements of fashion and lifestyle into the magazine.
Webster is a native of Raleigh, N.C. Before finishing work for his bachelor’s degree in history from Duke University, he enjoyed a three-month tour of European art museums. “Then as soon as I had my degree in 1971, I picked up where I left off,” he recalled, “traveling in a Volkswagen camper throughout the United States and then six months in Mexico, the whole country down to Chiapas and Yucatan.”
He arrived in Santa Fe in 1972, got the Indian art bug, and was soon traveling the back roads, ferreting out American Indian artifacts. Gradually, his focus expanded to include vintage Western paintings and photographs, Spanish Colonial furniture, folk art and Pre-Columbian artifacts from Central America.
Webster founded Christopher Webster Real Estate in 1976. His headquarters for four decades is upstairs in the 19th-century Batts Building at 54 1/2 Lincoln Avenue on the Plaza. His office is like a museum, filled with art, books, pottery and artifacts, including a long, metal 18th-century altarpiece from Bolivia. He currently is hosting an exhibition of photographs by Elliott McDowell.
Over the years, Webster became a specialist in Northern New Mexico properties, historic haciendas and coastal estates in Mexico, and distinctive residential and resort properties in Hawaii and Western Europe.
Christopher Webster Real Estate was an exclusive affiliate of Sotheby’s International Real Estate until 1998, when Sotheby’s acquired the firm — its first acquisition of an affiliate company worldwide.
“At that point, I rebranded everything Webster Enterprises, and I put three tentacles under that: Webster Collection, which is everything art-related; Webster Estates, the real estate business; and Webster Ventures, which is private equity investments and managing directorship of companies that are in our portfolio that we’ve got substantial involvements with, as we did with Santa Fe Natural Tobacco.”
Webster was one of the tobacco company’s founders in 1982. It was sold to R.J. Reynolds 20 years later.
“One of our companies is Synthesis Realty Group, and it serves as co-developer or adviser to developers of major upscale residential resort communities around the world.”
He added that his wife, Patti, “is at my side, involved in all the things we’ve done together.”
Webster is a longtime member of the International Real Estate Federation and the Urban Land Institute. In January 2014, he was selected for membership in The Fellowship of Realty Professionals, which requires that each member has good standing in the business communities, has a record of integrity and has closed at least 500 transactions totaling at minimum $250 million in sales.
He has continued to collect art, artifacts and photography, including prints by Edward Curtis and 1890s photogravures of Mayan ruins by A.P. Maudslay. Webster has collected in China, Thailand, Fiji, Nepal, Malaysia and Bali — the art in the Websters’ second home in Hawaii is all Asian, whereas the Santa Fe home and office are art of the Americas.
He also owns the 1540 letter from King Carlos I authorizing Francisco Vásquez de Coronado to expedition into the far north of New Spain (what is now New Mexico) to search for the fabled riches of the Seven Cities of Cibola.
Webster said Leading Estates of the World will be published twice a year. He added that the website is being rebuilt to allow brokers to load more information and more photos to their listings.
Regarding the local real estate market, Webster said he prefers “putting a positive spin on it because it is a shadow of its former self.”
“It’s been an honor and a joy to go around the world to international real estate conferences and Sotheby’s conferences and Leading Estates meetings and beating the drum about Santa Fe and inviting people here and trying to have them, if they haven’t personally experienced it, to understand that they’re coming to a place that’s unlike anywhere they’ve ever been.”
Posted: Monday, August 24, 2015 7:00 pm | Updated: 9:39 pm, Mon Aug 24, 2015. By Paul Weideman, The New Mexican