AD AGE'S CYBERMARKETING LEADERS

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Pete Kight

Age:39

Title:Chairman-CEO, Checkfree Corp., Columbus, Ohio

Bio:Born in Columbus, Ohio. Attended California State University-Bakersfield for three and a half years as a philosophy major, left with no degree.

Work history:Editor in chief, Muscle magazine, 1978-79; director of Nautilus of America, a Midwest chain of athletic clubs, 1979-80; current post, 1981-.

While working at Nautilus of America, Pete Kight realized there must be an easier way to collect membership fees than by mail.

"That was my epiphany," said Mr. Kight.

His realization led to the start of Checkfree, now the country's leading provider of electronic bill payment services and one of the electronic commerce industry's most important building blocks.

Through his company's recently patented electronic payment software system, which allows cyberspace transactions to work with almost any bank or financial service, Mr. Kight has helped bring electronic commerce to the brink of the mass market heavens, waiting only for encryption technology to provide the final boost.

Partners including AT&T, Tribune Co., payroll services giant ADP and 31 banks validate Checkfree's role as a key link from the traditional finance community to cyberspace.

The 400-employee company is growing 50% a year while moving more than $10 billion in payments with its software.

More is on the way. Checkfree cut a deal with Reston, Va.'s CyberCash to develop a system for making financial transactions safe over the Internet. It also plans the Checkfree Wallet, a digital analog to the real-life namesake, which will let consumers make credit-card, debit-card and check payments via computers.

Betcha didn't know:Mr. Kight went to college to pursue his dream of becoming an Olympic decathlete but left in his senior year when he tore his hamstring. Last year, he gave up his motorcycle racing hobby at the request of his associates and now makes do running four days a week and golfing with a single-digit handicap.

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