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Co-founders' dispute adds sizzle to 'Cigar City Magazine' history

Cigar City Magazine publisher Lisa Figueredo says the dispute wasn’t related to the magazine.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Cigar City Magazine publisher Lisa Figueredo says the dispute wasn’t related to the magazine.

YBOR CITY— As Cigar City Magazine approaches its third anniversary, there appears to be no shortage of readers interested in old Tampa's rich history.

The bimonthly magazine has grown from a couple of hundred subscribers to more than 2,000, and about 25,000 readers who pick up the free Ybor City-based publication, the publisher says.

Three local women who wanted to share the stories of their ancestors started the publication in November 2005. But one recent chapter in their family history, they likely want to forget.

Magazine founder and shareholder Vienna Santisteban filed a lawsuit last month against another founder, Lisa Figueredo. The suit alleges that Figueredo, who is also publisher, mishandled $250,000 in funds, didn't pay wages and broke Santisteban's trust.

Figueredo, however, said recently that she and Santisteban have settled their differences for the good of the magazine.

"We've worked things out," she said. "Bygones are bygones, and our main concern is keeping the magazine going."

When asked if the issue had been resolved, Santisteban declined to comment for this story, and her attorney did not return phone calls. Early this week, the suit had not been withdrawn, but Figueredo believed it would be dropped soon.

The troubles began last year with tragedy. Figueredo's aunt, 58-year-old Marilyn Figueredo, committed suicide in April 2007. Marilyn and Vienna Santisteban were life partners for 24 years, but had recently split up, Lisa said.

Her death took an emotional toll on the family, resulting in strife between Lisa Figueredo and Santisteban. According to Santisteban's lawsuit, Lisa Figueredo removed Santisteban as a corporate director, and Figueredo's son was added to the board four days after Marilyn's death.

Figueredo then fired Santisteban, according to the lawsuit, and took about $250,000 from Cigar City Magazine to pay Mediatex Inc., an ad agency Figueredo owns. But the services that the magazine supposedly paid for were rendered by Figueredo as a Cigar City employee, the suit says. Santisteban also accused Figueredo of wasting the magazine's money "for her personal expenses, social activities and whimsy."

Figueredo denied these accusations and said the issues between her and Santisteban were personal and in no way related to the magazine.

The suit prompted Figueredo to talk to her aunt's longtime partner, whom she has always regarded as family. The two women are also neighbors, but had not spoken since her aunt's death.

According to Figueredo, she and Santisteban plan on moving forward to build on the success of Cigar City Magazine. The magazine has enjoyed a greater presence by sponsoring South Tampa and Ybor City events and selling historic photo posters and T-shirts, plus its Web site, www.cigarcitymagazine.com, gets about 20,000 visits a day. In the coming year, the magazine plans to improve the Web site and expand its circulation, including the number of subscribers who pay a fee to have the free magazine delivered to their homes.

"The magazine is a well-known magazine, and we were putting my reputation and her reputation on the line (with the suit)," Figueredo said.

And that's not what her aunt would have wanted, she said.

"It's not worth it. I can't make my aunt come back. I'm going to move forward, and I'm going to do it with Vienna."

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3431.

Co-founders' dispute adds sizzle to 'Cigar City Magazine' history 10/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 30, 2008 4:31am]
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