Robert 'Bob' Lothenbach, Founder of Imagine! Print Solutions, Passes at Age 64
Bob Lothenbach, the entrepreneurial founder and former owner of Imagine! Print Solutions in Shakopee, Minnesota, died unexpectedly of natural causes on November 14, at age 64.
Born in Bloomington, Minnesota, Bob graduated from Bloomington Kennedy in 1977. He took print classes in high school, while also working full-time at a local Insty-Prints franchise. Bob joined Crosstown Printing in a sales capacity at age 21, and worked there for seven years, eventually becoming a part-owner. He had a falling out with the ownership team over a planned acquisition, however, and quit abruptly — only to realize when he walked out into the parking lot that he was driving a company car.
That would lead him to pursue his deferred dream of one day owning his own printing company. With $1,800 to his name, Bob launched Bob's Printing in 1988 from inside a warehouse garage. His first hire, naturally, was someone who owned a car. With a strong work ethic and drive instilled by his parents, Bob would collect print orders early in the day, pick up the paper in the early afternoon, and print at night. The next morning, he would cut, package, and push work out the door.
Bob's Printing grew quickly and eventually changed its name to Challenge Printing, a 40" sheetfed general commercial printing business. The company migrated from its Eden Prairie, Minnesota, facility and rechristened itself as Imagine! Print Solutions, taking up residence in Shakopee, Minnesota, where it eventually grew to more than 700,000 sq. ft. and over 850 employees. Bob saw the value of diversification and a willingness to invest in new technology. That lead to the expansion into large-format, rollfed labels, UV printing, and point-of-purchase work.
Still, he never lost sight that his employees were his biggest asset. "As printers, we can all buy the same equipment and consumables," he told Printing Impressions back in 2013 before he was inducted into the Printing Impressions Printing Industry Hall of Fame. "But it's the dedication of your workforce that can make you look good. My employees have proven to be the secret sauce."
Imagine! Print Solutions was sold to private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners in 2016 (the same year it acquired the marketing firm Midnight Oil Agency), and was then ultimately recapitalized under a new ownership group in 2021, which included Cerberus Capital Management, the Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Div., and Arbour Lane Capital Management.
Imagine! was ranked #18 on the 2022 Printing Impressions 300 list of the largest printing companies in the U.S.and Canada (click here for the complete PI 300 ranking), reporting $351 million in sales for its most recent fiscal year and more than 1,200 employees.
Another Chapter for Bob Lothenbach
But printing wasn't the only passion in which Bob Lothenbach excelled. As a child, his father purchased a Shetland pony for him and his two brothers. As noted in his obituary, this would kick off his passion for racehorses for the rest of his life. Bob's horses raced and won at America's most prestigious tracks. Since 2000, they earned 793 victories and more than $30.3 million in purses, making Lothenbach Stables one of the most successful thoroughbred operations in the country.
While Bob's thoroughbreds ran at places like Saratoga and Churchill Downs, his local track — Canterbury Park — always held a special place in his heart. He won five titles as leading owner, and his horses set a Canterbury Park record with $1.52 million in earnings in 2022. Bob's dedication to Canterbury Park and to Minnesota racing earned him a place in the track's Hall of Fame in 2023.
Nationally, Bob's horses won 87 races and more than $4 million in 2022, ranking the stable sixth in the country in wins and ninth in purse earnings. His most successful horse, Bell's the One, ran third in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in 2020.
Bob's philanthropic work was anchored by his formation of the Lothenbach Family Foundation, with a focus on children's literacy and race horses. He was a proud advocate and supporter of Horses for Mental Health and Abijah's on the Backside.
Far beyond his tireless work ethic and love of horses, was Bob's love for his family. His four children meant the world to him and he was proud of each of their accomplishments. He spent the last five years building his dream home that would be an oasis for his children, family, and generations to come. Bob's one true dream was to have grandchildren to spoil with love.
He is survived by his children: Clare Lothenbach, Audrey Lothenbach, Michael Lothenbach, and Ryan Lothenbach; two brothers; two nieces; his loyal dog, Bella; and hundreds of beloved race horses.
A Celebration of Life will be held and live-streamed on Tuesday, November 21, at 12 noon CST, with visitation one hour prior at Canterbury Park (Expo Center), 1100 Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota.
Bob Lothenbach represented the epitome of a proverbial rags-to-riches printing industry success story of an individual who found business success fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit to dream big and then execute, coupled with a tireless work ethic and an unwavering commitment to excel at his chosen craft.