WASHINGTON — The family-owned business and finance publisher Kiplinger Washington Editors has been sold to London-based Dennis Publishing, a prolific, private-equity-owned publisher that owns the Week, the company announced Friday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Both will be owned by Exponent, a British private-equity firm that acquired Dennis late last year. Denise Elliott, who is vice president and chief operating officer at Kiplinger, will ascend to the role of chief executive under the new ownership.
The deal makes Kiplinger the latest family-owned publishing empire to change hands amid a tumultuous business environment for print journalism: Donald Graham sold The Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos in 2013; Bloomberg bought Businessweek from McGraw Hill in 2009, and the Forbes family relinquished control of their storied business magazine in 2014. All of them faced difficult financial choices as advertising dollars moved online, with most newsrooms downsizing amid plunging ad revenue and declining circulation in their print products.
Kiplinger has enjoyed a degree of relative stability, perhaps owing to its money-minded subscriber base and its relatively small staff. When it was sold, the company was profitable and employed an editorial staff of 85. Executives declined to disclose specific financial details.
“We’ve never downsized the editorial staff ... even during the Great Recession,” said longtime editor-in-chief Knight Kiplinger, 71. “Maybe it’s because this company was founded by a journalist and was run by journalists for 99 years.”
Kiplinger joined his family’s firm in 1983 after a 13-year career as a newspaper reporter. He is the third generation of Kiplingers to preside over the company.
His grandfather W.M. Kiplinger covered economic policy for the Associated Press before leaving to found his own news service in 1920. Over the years he built Kiplinger’s around newsletters and magazines focused on insular financial topics.
Its most widely read publication today is Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, a magazine with a circulation of about 600,000.
It later branched out to newsletters focused on topics including business forecasting, retirement living and “yield-oriented investing.”
The company’s latest transition does not come as a surprise. Knight Kiplinger hinted in a 2014 interview that his family might part with the publishing company, telling The Post’s Thomas Heath in a 2014 interview: “Someday it might make sense for this company to be a division of a larger company doing the same thing it’s doing now.”
In Dennis Publishing, Kiplinger thinks he has found an appropriate steward. The company has a foothold in the United States through its ownership of the Week, a weekly newsmagazine that boasts 550,000 print subscribers.
Dennis is owned by Exponent, which scooped up some prestigious media properties in recent years, including the magazine division of the BBC.
Kiplinger said he thought the private-equity firm has legitimate plans to expand its U.S. footprint. He said there had been no mention of buyouts or layoffs at Kiplinger’s.
“Private equity in the U.S. has a deservedly bad reputation, but that is not universal,” he said.
“I think private equity in the (United Kingdom) has a better reputation for investing in the (print media) business rather than stripping and looting and dismembering and all that sort of thing,” he said.
Dennis Publishing Chairman Jack Griffin described Kiplinger’s as “a highly trusted brand that has spoken to generations of Americans for almost a century about matters related to their financial well-being and security.”
He said he plans to leave Kiplinger’s leadership team in place and encourage it to double down on its specialized newsletters, an approach that publications such as Politico, Axios, The Post and other inside-the-Beltway media outfits have invested in for years.
He declined to detail what specific news products the company will pursue, but he seemed to hint that it would target a new generation of wealthy, money-focused individuals.
“There’s a very interesting thing that is starting to happen: this significant transfer of wealth from the baby-boom generation to their progeny,” Griffin said in a Friday phone interview. “Gen-Xers are going to find themselves in positions where they are going to have financial options and wherewithal that previously they have not had as their parents and grandparents execute their wills. We think there is a very thorough opportunity to present unbiased financial advice to a whole new set of American cohorts.”
Knight Kiplinger will remain involved in the business as “editor emeritus,” something that will allow him to closely advise the company on editorial pursuits while stepping back from the day-to-day operation of a news organization.
“Journalism has been our family profession for three generations,” Kiplinger said. “It’s in my blood.”