Knight Foundation appoints new Board of Trustees Chair Christopher M. Austen – Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation appoints new Board of Trustees Chair Christopher M. Austen

Austen takes over from Frank Borges who served as chair since 2019.
Outgoing Board Chair Frank Borges shakes hands with new Board Chair Chris Austen at the conclusion of the March 2024 meeting of trustees in Miami.

MIAMI – This week, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the election of Christopher M. Austen as the new chair of its board of trustees, effective March 3, 2024. Austen, son of Dr. W. Gerald Austen, a previous Chair of Knight Foundation’s board of trustees, holds a unique connection to the foundation and its founders, John S. and James L. Knight. His family’s long standing relationship with the Knight brothers adds a deeply personal dimension to his new role as Chair of the board.

Christopher M. Austen has been an esteemed member of Knight’s board since March 2014, where he currently serves as the Chair of the Investment Committee and is a valued member of the Audit Committee.

Portrait of Chris Austen

Beyond his familial ties to the foundation, Austen brings a wealth of experience to his new role. He is the managing partner of BPEA Private Equity, a Boston-based private equity firm that focuses on small and lower middle market buyout and growth investment opportunities. Austen joined BPEA in 2006 and has led the investment process, strategy implementation, and operations of the firm. Prior to this, he served as the CEO of a SaaS-based collaboration and communication company. His background as an entrepreneur and private equity investor is further evidenced by his current role on the limited partner advisory boards of numerous private equity funds. 

Austen is also a past president and emeritus trustee of the Meadowbrook School of Weston, Massachusetts, a private, nonprofit, coeducational independent day school for students in grades K-8. 

Chris Austen stands in front of Maribel Pérez Wadsworth and Frank Borges.
Chris Austen joined then-Chair Frank Borges to announce the appointment of Maribel Pérez Wadsworth as new Knight Foundation president at a staff event in November 2023.

“There are few people more qualified than Chris to serve as chair of the Knight Foundation’s board of Trustees at this moment in time,” said the outgoing chair Frank Borges. “His unique family connection to our founders, the Knight brothers, adds a special layer of significance to his leadership. Chris has already proven himself as a dedicated and insightful trustee, and we look forward to his continued guidance and expertise as we strive to advance the mission and values set forth by John and James Knight. We have full confidence in his ability to lead us into the future.”

“We are thrilled to have Chris serve as our chair,” Knight’s president and CEO Maribel Pérez Wadsworth agreed. “His deep-rooted familial ties to the foundation, coupled with his extensive experience in private equity and entrepreneurship, make him an exceptional choice for this role. I am personally looking forward to collaborating with him to further advance the impactful mission and values of the Knight Foundation. Together, we will strive to build upon the legacy of the Knight brothers and propel the foundation into a future filled with innovation and positive change.” 

Christopher M. Austen is an alumnus of Duke University, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where he obtained his Master of Business Administration. He and his wife, Penny, are proud parents of three children.