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A Tribute to the Man Who Bought Entrepreneur Magazine Out of Bankruptcy Almost 40 Years Ago Peter Shea raised the magazine's circulation 82% in just a couple years, according to the L.A. Times. He passed away in September.

By Ryan Shea Edited by Frances Dodds

entrepreneur daily

This story appears in the November 2023 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

You wouldn't be reading this magazine today if it weren't for Peter Shea.

He's my dad. And decades before I followed in his footsteps and became the CEO of Entrepreneur Media, he was the one that saw its potential, bought this company, and saved it from bankruptcy. He passed away on September 21, 2023, and I'd like to take a moment to memorialize him here, and to share what made him such a consummate entrepreneur.

Image Credit: Courtesy of The Shea Family

Peter Shea took an unconventional path. He began working at a car wash at age 12. Then he painted houses, participated in self-defense schools, ran a restaurant, and even became an undercover narcotics cop. But his entrepreneurial path really began in the world of office supplies.

He was working as a salesman for the office suppliers A.B. Dick and Itek, and saw an opportunity to create a new kind of coated paper sorter. That led him to build his first company, Gradco Systems, and he traveled the world selling his technology. By the late '70s and early '80s, Gradco was the largest worldwide original equipment manufacturer of sorters. His technology was integrated into Xerox and most other major copiers.

He eventually sold his stake in Gradco and ventured into restaurants and real estate. In 1983, he joined two partners in purchasing the Stained Glass Overlay franchise — and once again traveled the world, adding 450 franchisees.

Peter had advertised Stained Glass Overlay in a small publication called Entrepreneur, and it worked so well that he and two partners bought the magazine out of bankruptcy. They brought in a new team and fresh ideas. My mom, Lynda, sold the ads. Their vision worked. In 1991, the Los Angeles Times ran this headline: "After the magazine's death was widely predicted, circulation rose 82% between 1987-90." (They also called my dad "a man with polished manners and Johnny Carson looks.")

The magazine you hold in your hands today carries the legacy of that work. He believed that a magazine shouldn't just help someone start a business, but guide them through its growth too. Our equal dedication to the franchise industry is rooted in Peter's own franchising success. (He eventually sold his business to a Canadian company.) He took a failing magazine and transformed it into a full-fledged media brand, whose magazines, books, and digital products have helped millions of aspiring business owners become entrepreneurs themselves.

Peter was a fun-loving and adventurous man, and he was often engaged in sports. He enjoyed skiing, golfing, waterskiing, hunting, hiking, and car racing. In the mid-1980s, Peter began racing vintage cars, which led him to become a member of the storied Team Lotus. In true Peter style, he ultimately formed his own team — "Team Entrepreneur" — to race in the Trans Am Series, which took him across North America for roughly 15 events per year.

Even with his many pursuits, family and friends always topped Peter's list. He cherished my mom, whom he was married to for 54 years, and his sons — both of whom absorbed his entrepreneurial spirit. I assumed the CEO role here from my dad, and my brother, Justin, has built many restaurant concepts.

As my mom has said: Peter's strength, warmth, love, and vision were ever-present. His loss creates an enormous void. As we've reflected on the impact he made, a friend recently told us, "Peter was a remarkable person who helped so many other people experience success."

That's one of the many ways that, at Entrepreneur, we continue to honor his legacy. He was the very definition of an entrepreneur, and by saving and growing this brand, he defined the role of "entrepreneur" for a generation of others. We'll continue that important work, always with him in mind.

Ryan Shea

CEO, Entrepreneur Media, Inc.

Ryan Shea is CEO of Entrepreneur Media Inc., the parent company of Entrepreneur.com and Entrepreneur Magazine.

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