Nancy Kriplen

Selected Works

London: Ebury Press (Random House UK); Boulder, CO: Lexicon V
Indianapolis: Children's Museum

Want to know more about origin of the MacArthur Genius Awards? See Nancy's Oct. 2 post on Bloomberg.com http://www.bloomberg.com/view/echoes/

Book cover
Nancy Kriplen's book, The Eccentric Billionaire: John D. MacArthur -- Empire Builder, Reluctant Philanthropist, Relentless Adversary (New York: Amacom Books, 2008). was named by USA Today as one of the best business books of 2008. The Eccentric Billionaire is the biography of the colorful, controversial insurance and real estate tycoon whose money funds the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. At the time of his death in 1978, MacArthur was the second richest man in the US (after the reclusive shipping magnate Daniel K. Ludwig).

After making the first part of his fortune in Chicago with Bankers Life & Casualty Co., MacArthur moved his operations to Florida where he ran his empire from a table in the coffee shop of a modest beach-front hotel on Singer Island, north of Palm Beach. It was his hotel, of course. At the time of his death in 1978 MacArthur probably owned more land in Florida than any other single individual.

Nancy Kriplen's previous biography was Dwight Davis: The Man and The Cup, the life story of the man who donated one of the sporting world's most famous trophies, tennis's Davis Cup, in 1900 while still a student at Harvard. He later served as secretary of war and governor general of the Philippines.

Researching the lives of two such different men was fascinating, says Kriplen. Though both men were extremely wealthy, the similarity ended there. "Everyone wanted to talk to me about Davis. Many sources were reluctant to be interviewed about John MacArthur. Davis was polished, urbane, had a law degree, inherited his money and had a sense of noblesse oblige.

"The shrewd, scrappy MacArthur was a high-school dropout who made it up from poverty on his own and could be rough and coarse as he gleefully battled his way to the top."

Nancy Kriplen was formerly on the staffs of Time Magazine and Scripps Howard's Indianapolis Times. She has also written for the New York Times, Smithsonian, Opera News, American History Illustrated, Saveur and other publications.

Kriplen is a graduate of Purdue University, where she was editor in chief of the campus daily newspaper. She has received a 2009-2010 Lilly Endowment Creative Renewal fellowship, administered by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, and an Indiana Arts Commission Individual Artist grant for 2011-2012. She was also named a Strnad Fellow by the Ragdale Foundation, an interdisciplinary artist community near Chicago. She and her husband are the parents of three adult children.


The Author

"If the man who bankrolled the MacArthur 'genius awards' is a mystery to you, pick up Nancy Kriplen's lively biography, The Eccentric Billionaire ....Kriplen, a former Time magazine staffer, writes in rat-a- tat, anecdotal style that belies the depth of her research. She knows how to spin a yarn and never bogs down in details, even when insurance regulators heave into view."
-- Bloomberg News


"MacArthur's life is a story worth telling...a contradictory and mysterious man who amassed great wealth over several decades but is still far from well-known, who founded an influential and generous foundation about which he cared not a bit."
-- USA Today


"...an incisive, warts-and-all account of the business and personal life of John D.MacArthur."
-- Ft. Worth Star-Telegram


"Surprisingly,no one has written a substantial book about the man -- that is, until now."
-- South Florida Sun-Sentinal.com