James Wolfensohn
Sir James David Wolfensohn AO KBE FKC (born 1 December 1933) was the ninth president of the World Bank Group
World Bank Group
The World Bank Group is a family of five international organizations that makes leveraged loans, generally to poor countries.The Bank came into formal existence on 27 December 1945 following international ratification of the Bretton Woods agreements, which emerged from the United Nations Monetary...


Early life

James Wolfensohn was born in Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, on 1 December 1933. In his autobiography, A Global Life, he described that monetary insecurity was a fact of life from childhood and that he was always looking for a cushion to protect himself from it.

He was first educated at Woollahra Public School, then educated at Sydney Boys High School
Sydney Boys High School
Sydney Boys High School is an academically selective public secondary school for boys, located in the City of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, with 1,180 students, from years 7 to 12...

. He studied arts
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 (BA) and law
Bachelor of Laws
The Bachelor of Laws is an undergraduate, or bachelor, degree in law originating in England and offered in most common law countries as the primary law degree...

 (LL.B) at the University of Sydney
University of Sydney
The University of Sydney is a public university located in Sydney, New South Wales. The main campus spreads across the suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington on the southwestern outskirts of the Sydney CBD. Founded in 1850, it is the oldest university in Australia and Oceania...

, and in 1959 earned a Master of Business Administration
Master of Business Administration
The Master of Business Administration is a :master's degree in business administration, which attracts people from a wide range of academic disciplines. The MBA designation originated in the United States, emerging from the late 19th century as the country industrialized and companies sought out...

 (MBA) degree at Harvard Business School
Harvard Business School
Harvard Business School is the graduate business school of Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, United States and is widely recognized as one of the top business schools in the world. The school offers the world's largest full-time MBA program, doctoral programs, and many executive...

. In his 2010 memoirs he reveals he failed several university classes, including English, and was a 'late developer'.
He was a member of the Australian fencing team
Fencing at the 1956 Summer Olympics
At the 1956 Summer Olympics, seven fencing events were contested, six for men and one for women.-Medal summary:-Medal table:-Participating nations:A total of 165 fencers from 23 nations competed at the Melbourne Games:...

 at the 1956 Summer Olympics
1956 Summer Olympics
The 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVI Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956, with the exception of the equestrian events, which could not be held in Australia due to quarantine regulations...

 in Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

 and an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...


Business career

Before attending Harvard, Wolfensohn was a lawyer in the Australian law firm of Allen, Allen & Hemsley in Sydney (now Allens Arthur Robinson
Allens Arthur Robinson
Allens Arthur Robinson is a commercial law firm that operates in the Asia-Pacific region. In Australia, and throughout the Asia-Pacific region generally, it is considered to be one of the top commercial law firms.- Offices :...


Upon graduating from Harvard Business School, Wolfensohn worked briefly for Swiss cement giant Holderbank (now Holcim
Holcim is a Swiss-based global company supplying cement and aggregates . The company also supplies ready-mix concrete and asphalt including associated construction services.-Holcim Group:...

). He then returned to his native Australia, where he worked for various banking institutions, including Darling & Co. In the late 1960s, he became a director of Darling's major shareholder J. Henry Schroder & Co
Schroders plc is a British multinational asset management company with over 200 years of experience in the world's financial markets. The company employs 2,905 people worldwide who are operating from 32 offices in 25 different countries around Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East...

, a London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

-based investment bank. He was a senior executive in the London office before becoming managing director of the bank's New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 office from 1970 to 1976. He later became a senior executive at Salomon Brothers
Salomon Brothers
Salomon Brothers was a bulge bracket, Wall Street investment bank. Founded in 1910 by three brothers along with a clerk named Ben Levy, it remained a partnership until the early 1980s, when it was acquired by the commodity trading firm Phibro Corporation and then became Salomon Inc. Eventually...


In 1979, he rescued Chrysler along with its boss Lee Iacocca
Lee Iacocca
Lido Anthony "Lee" Iacocca is an American businessman known for engineering the Mustang, the unsuccessful Ford Pinto, being fired from Ford Motor Company, and his revival of the Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s...

 and then US Treasury secretary Paul A. Volcker, who later became US Federal Reserve Bank
Federal Reserve Bank
The twelve Federal Reserve Banks form a major part of the Federal Reserve System, the central banking system of the United States. The twelve federal reserve banks together divide the nation into twelve Federal Reserve Districts, the twelve banking districts created by the Federal Reserve Act of...


In 1980, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, after it was rumored that he was a candidate to succeed Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara
Robert Strange McNamara was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, during which time he played a large role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War...

 as president of the World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

. After he was unsuccessful in this pursuit, he established his own investment firm, James D. Wolfensohn, Inc., along with partners including Paul A. Volcker. Upon accepting his nomination to serve as president of the World Bank in 1995, Wolfensohn divested of his ownership interest in James D. Wolfensohn, Inc. The firm was later bought by Bankers Trust
Bankers Trust
Bankers Trust was an historic American banking organization. The bank merged with Alex. Brown & Sons before being acquired by Deutsche Bank in 1998.-History:A consortium of banks created Bankers Trust to perform trust company services for their clients....


In 2005, upon stepping down as president of the World Bank, he founded Wolfensohn & Company, LLC, a privately held firm that invests, and provides strategic consulting advice to governments and large corporations doing business, in emerging market economies.

Since 2006, Wolfensohn has also been the chairman of the International Advisory Board of Citigroup
Citigroup Inc. or Citi is an American multinational financial services corporation headquartered in Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States. Citigroup was formed from one of the world's largest mergers in history by combining the banking giant Citicorp and financial conglomerate...


In 2009, he became a member of the International Advisory Council of the Chinese sovereign wealth fund
Sovereign wealth fund
A sovereign wealth fund is a state-owned investment fund composed of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, property, precious metals or other financial instruments. Sovereign wealth funds invest globally. Some of them have grabbed attention making bad investments in several Wall Street financial...

 China Investment Corporation
China Investment Corporation
China Investment Corporation is a sovereign wealth fund responsible for managing part of the People's Republic of China's foreign exchange reserves. CIC was established in 2007 with approximately US$200 billion of assets under management, making it one of the largest sovereign wealth funds...


In October 2010, Wolfensohn regained his Australian Citizenship.

World Bank tenure and other public service

Wolfensohn became president of the World Bank on 1 July 1995 after he was nominated by U.S. President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

. He was unanimously supported by the bank's board of executive directors to a second five-year term in 2000, becoming the third person to serve two terms in the position after Eugene R. Black
Eugene R. Black
Eugene Robert Black was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve from May 9, 1933 to August 15, 1934. His namesake, Eugene "Gene" Robert Black, Sr., was the first in the family to use the "Sr." designation; Gene's son became Eugene Robert Black, Jr.-Biography:He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and...

 and Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara
Robert Strange McNamara was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, during which time he played a large role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War...

. He visited more than 120 countries around the world during his term as president. He is credited, among other things, with being the first World Bank president to bring attention to the problem of corruption in the area of development financing.

On 3 January 2005, he announced that he would not seek a third term as president. During his term, the Alfalfa Club
Alfalfa Club
The Alfalfa Club is a Washington, D.C. social organization that exists only to hold an annual banquet on the last Saturday of January. The club's membership, which numbers about 200, is composed primarily of American politicians and influential members of the United States business community, and...

 named him as their nominee for President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 in 2000 as part of a long-standing tradition, despite being constitutionally ineligible due to the natural-born citizen clause in Article II of the United States Constitution.

He also currently serves as an advisor to the Grassroots Business Fund
Grassroots Business Fund
The Grassroots Business Fund is a non-profit based in Washington, DC. It has field offices in Ghana, Kenya, and India. Their mission is to build and support high-impact enterprises that provide sustainable economic opportunities to thousands of people at the base of the economic pyramid...

Civic and charitable activities

In 2006, Wolfensohn founded the Wolfensohn Center for Development http://www.brookings.edu/global/wolfensohn.htm at the Brookings Institution
Brookings Institution
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., in the United States. One of Washington's oldest think tanks, Brookings conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and...

, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. The center examines how to implement, scale up, and sustain development interventions to solve key development challenges at a national, regional, and global level and strives to bridge the gap between development theorists and practitioners. Current projects focus on youth exclusion in the Middle East, large-scale anti-poverty programs, reforms of global economic governance, and regional cooperation, particularly in Central Asia.

Wolfensohn is an honorary trustee of the Brookings Institution
Brookings Institution
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., in the United States. One of Washington's oldest think tanks, Brookings conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and...

, and served as a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation
Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is a prominent philanthropic organization and private foundation based at 420 Fifth Avenue, New York City. The preeminent institution established by the six-generation Rockefeller family, it was founded by John D. Rockefeller , along with his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr...

. He is a trustee and the former chairman of the board of trustees of the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States, is an independent postgraduate center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner...

 in Princeton. He is also chairman emeritus of Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

 in New York and of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a performing arts center located on the Potomac River, adjacent to the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C...

 in Washington, D.C., and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations
Council on Foreign Relations
The Council on Foreign Relations is an American nonprofit nonpartisan membership organization, publisher, and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs...

. He serves on the board of various charitable foundations, including the Wolfensohn Family Foundation. In July 2008, Wolfensohn was selected as one of the inaugural fellows of the Australian Institute of International Affairs
Australian Institute of International Affairs
The Australian Institute of International Affairs is a non-profit think tank based in Australia. Established in 1924 and formed as a national body in 1933, the organisation endeavours to promote interest in and understanding of international affairs...


Wolfensohn has attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group
Bilderberg Group
The Bilderberg Group, Bilderberg conference, or Bilderberg Club is an annual, unofficial, invitation-only conference of approximately 120 to 140 guests from North America and Western Europe, most of whom are people of influence. About one-third are from government and politics, and two-thirds from...

, the Aspen Institute
Aspen Institute
The Aspen Institute is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1950 as the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies. The organization is dedicated to "fostering enlightened leadership, the appreciation of timeless ideas and values, and open-minded dialogue on contemporary issues." The...

, and the World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva, best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland....


In 2004, Wolfensohn was the commencement speaker at Brandeis University
Brandeis University
Brandeis University is an American private research university with a liberal arts focus. It is located in the southwestern corner of Waltham, Massachusetts, nine miles west of Boston. The University has an enrollment of approximately 3,200 undergraduate and 2,100 graduate students. In 2011, it...

. Wolfensohn also sits on the board of Endeavor (non-profit)
Endeavor (non-profit)
Endeavor is a non-profit organization that pioneered the concept of High-Impact Entrepreneurship in emerging markets. Its mission is to “lead the global movement to catalyze long-term economic growth by selecting, mentoring, and accelerating the best High-Impact Entrepreneurs around the...


Personal life and honors

A friend of Jacqueline du Pré
Jacqueline du Pré
Jacqueline Mary du Pré OBE was a British cellist. She is particularly associated with Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor; her interpretation has been described as "definitive" and "legendary." Her career was cut short by multiple sclerosis, which forced her to stop performing at 28 and led to her...

, he began cello studies with her at the age of 41 when she offered to teach him on the condition that he perform on his 50th birthday at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

 in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, which he did. He repeated the exercise on his 60th and 70th birthdays with Yo-Yo Ma
Yo-Yo Ma
Yo-Yo Ma is an American cellist, virtuoso, and orchestral composer. He has received multiple Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts in 2001 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011...

 and Bono
Paul David Hewson , most commonly known by his stage name Bono , is an Irish singer, musician, and humanitarian best known for being the main vocalist of the Dublin-based rock band U2. Bono was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School where he met his...

. He continues to play and has appeared, together with musician friends, at private events at Carnegie Hall and elsewhere.

Wolfensohn has received numerous awards throughout his life, including becoming an honorary officer of the Order of Australia
Order of Australia
The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on 14 February 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, "for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service"...

 in 1987, and an honorary knighthood of the Order of the British Empire
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 in 1995 for his service to the arts. The University of New South Wales
University of New South Wales
The University of New South Wales , is a research-focused university based in Kensington, a suburb in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia...

 conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Science
Doctor of Science
Doctor of Science , usually abbreviated Sc.D., D.Sc., S.D. or Dr.Sc., is an academic research degree awarded in a number of countries throughout the world. In some countries Doctor of Science is the name used for the standard doctorate in the sciences, elsewhere the Sc.D...

 in 2006 and he is a recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence.

He is married to Elaine, née Botwinick, and has three grown children, Sara, Naomi, Adam, and seven grandchildren.

In New York, Wolfesohn found himself at a Jerusalem Foundation lunch next to Dorothy de Rothschild
Dorothy de Rothschild
Dorothy de Rothschild was an English philanthropist and activist for Jewish affairs who married into the Rothschild international financial dynasty....

, widow of James. She could not tell him why his father suddenly had left Rothschild six decades earlier. But he was reassured that his father had been a "wonderful man".

In 2006, he received the Leo Baeck Medal
Leo Baeck Institute
The Leo Baeck Institute-New York in Manhattan is a library, archive, and exhibition centre devoted to the study of the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry. The Institutes's offices and collections are housed in Center for Jewish History in New York City...

 for his humanitarian work promoting tolerance and social justice.

Further reading

  • James D. Wolfensohn: "Social Development", in: Frank-Jürgen Richter
    Frank-Jürgen Richter
    Frank-Jürgen Richter is a German entrepreneur and currently the Chairman of Horasis. He has served in that role since he founded the organization.-Business Meetings:...

    , Pamela Mar: Asia’s New Crisis, John Wiley 2004, ISBN: 0-470-82129-9
  • Sebastian Mallaby date The World's Banker. ISBN 1-59420-023-8. Critical biography by former The Economist writer and Washington Post contributor, emphasis on World Bank.
  • James D. Wolfensohn and Andrew Kircher date Voice for the World's Poor: Selected Speeches and Writings of World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, 1995–2005. ISBN 978-0-8213-6156-6. Collection of speeches, articles, memoranda and op-eds.
  • James D. Wolfensohn 2010.A Global Life: My Journey among Rich and Poor, from Wall Street to the World Bank. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 978-1-58648-255-8. Memoirs.

External links



"Iraq’s debts needed to be reduced by 33%, from roughly $120 billion to $80 billion in order to fund reconstruction needs and long-term economic development."
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