Interview with Knight A. Kiplinger

Editor in Chief and President of Kiplinger Washington Editors Inc.


Picking up from Austin Kiplinger’s suggestion (when asked about how the leadership transition from him to his son had gone), “you better ask Knight,” Vernon Holleman, CLU sat down with Knight, in his home, to talk to the Editor in Chief of Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc., to hear directly from the third generation Kiplinger to lead the organization. It so happened that this interview took place during the year Kiplinger was celebrating its 90th year as an organization.

In this interview, Vernon and Knight talk through the decisions Knight made early in his career and how he determined journalism was for him. Once clear on that, you will hear the path he took, which did not include Kiplinger for many years, something he considers very important to his success (and highly recommends for anyone considering a family business career).

Knight explains, in great detail, the core philosophical beliefs of Kiplinger regarding ownership and employee matters, such as compensation, and how the company has worked hard to keep those traditions, despite radically different business environments over the years. The issues covered in this interview, include: how a company can survive three generations, including the death of Knight’s brother Todd; attracting non-family talent; the importance of non-family mentoring of family members in the business; planning for the liquidity needs taxes cause; working with non-voting family owners; and the current challenges facing the entire journalistic/media field and the impact on a closely held business.

This interview has true insight into how succession has unfolded over the ninety years of this iconic company and is a great follow up and addition to the Holleman Business Succession Forum interview with Austin Kiplinger. The listener will hear how the affects of one transition manifest themselves in the next – how the continuum is absolutely connected. It is filled with excellent detail of how company structure, control, and planning are critical to the success of family business continuity and how to avoid some of the common errors made that lead to family business failure.

Notable Discussion Topics:

Among other topics, Knight discusses the following issues with Vernon Holleman III, CLU:

  • Two Routes to Entering a Family Business
  • Death of a Brother
  • Importance of Voting Control
  • Working with Non-Voting Shareholder Family Members
  • Importance of Non-Family/Parent Mentoring in the Business
  • Taxes and Liquidity Needs / Life Insurance
  • Taking Care of Employees / Thinking Long-Term
  • Working Beyond 65 / Productivity


Knight Kiplinger is one of America’s most respected economic journalists and business forecasters. In his writing, speeches and appearances on major TV and radio networks, he cuts through the complexity of financial subjects with clarity and foresight.

Mr. Kiplinger is editor in chief of The Kiplinger Letter, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and The Letter, a weekly publication started in 1923, is the most widely read and longest-published business forecasting publication in the world.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, the first magazine in the field of personal money management, was founded in 1947 and today has a monthly circulation of more than 600,000. is a full-featured Web site with content and tools for helping people manage their money, as well as business forecasting content to help managers in their decisionmaking.

Mr. Kiplinger’s company, Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc., was the Washington regional and national winner of the 2002 Business Ethics Award in the small-business category, awarded each year by the Society of Financial Service Professionals. In 2007 it was recognized by Ethisphere magazine as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies.”

Mr. Kiplinger came to the Kiplinger organization in 1983, following 13 years in newspaper journalism as a Washington correspondent and editor. For six years he was Washington bureau chief for Ottaway Newspapers, Inc., a chain of 22 daily papers owned by Dow Jones & Company.

In the late 1980s Mr. Kiplinger co-authored two best-selling forecast books which contradicted the prevailing pessimism of that time, accurately predicting that the United States would set the global pace for economic growth and technology leadership in the 1990s. In World Boom Ahead (1998), Mr. Kiplinger forecast that the U.S. will continue to benefit from soaring productivity and surging trade with the expanding economies of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Mr. Kiplinger is a frequent guest on national radio and TV networks, including NPR, CNN, Fox and CNBC. He is an occasional commentator on “Marketplace,” the daily business report heard on public radio stations nationwide.

A graduate of Cornell University, Mr. Kiplinger did graduate study in international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University.

He has long been active in a variety of civic affairs in the Washington area, centering on the performing arts, education and history.