James Wolfensohn: Wikis


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James David Wolfensohn

9th President of the World Bank
In office
July 1, 1995 – June 30, 2005
Preceded by Lewis Preston
Succeeded by Paul Wolfowitz

Born December 5, 1933 (1933-12-05) (age 76)
Sydney, Australia
Nationality Australian
Religion Jewish
Website http://www.wolfensohn.com

James David Wolfensohn KBE, AO (born 1 December 1933) was the ninth president of the World Bank Group.


Early life

Wolfensohn was born in Sydney, Australia, on 5 December 1933, to Jewish parents who had immigrated from England during the Great Depression.[1] He was educated at Sydney Boys High School, studied arts (BA) and law (LL.B) at the University of Sydney, and in 1959 earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at Harvard Business School. He was a member of the Australian fencing team at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force.[2]

Business career

Before attending Harvard, Wolfensohn was a lawyer in the Australian law firm of Allen, Allen & Hemsley in Sydney (now Allens Arthur Robinson).

Upon graduating from Harvard Business School, Wolfensohn worked briefly for Swiss cement giant Holderbank (now Holcim). He then returned to his native Australia, where he worked for various banking institutions before being employed by J. Henry Schroders, a London-based investment bank. He was a senior executive in the London office before becoming managing director of the bank's New York City office from 1970 to 1976. He later became a senior executive at Salomon Brothers.

In 1980, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States, after it was rumored that he was a candidate to succeed Robert McNamara as president of the World Bank. After he was unsuccessful in this pursuit, he established his own investment firm, James D. Wolfensohn, Inc., along with partners including Paul A. Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. 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.

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.[3]

In 2009, he became a member of the International Advisory Council of the Chinese sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation.[4]

World Bank tenure and other public service

Wolfensohn (left) with U.S. President George W. Bush in the Oval Office, 2005.
Wolfensohn speaking at a press conference with Condoleezza Rice in 2006.

Wolfensohn became president of the World Bank on 1 July 1995 after he was nominated by U.S. President Bill Clinton. 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 and Robert McNamara. 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. [5]

On 3 January 2005, he announced that he would not seek a third term as president. During his term, the Alfalfa Club named him as their nominee for President of the United States 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.[6]

Upon leaving the World Bank on 31 May 2005, Wolfensohn assumed the post of special envoy for Gaza disengagement for the Quartet on the Middle East. United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appointed him to this position, in which he was to help coordinate Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and to spearhead reconstruction efforts as the Palestinians assume sovereignty over the area. Citing frustration with the stymied Road Map process, he announced that he would not continue on past his original one-year commitment, and left the post on 30 April 2006.[7]

Civic and charitable activities

In 2006, Wolfensohn founded the Wolfensohn Center for Development [1] at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.[8] 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, and served as a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation. He is a trustee and the former chairman of the board of trustees of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is also chairman emeritus of Carnegie Hall in New York and of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 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.

Wolfensohn has attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group, the Aspen Institute, and the World Economic Forum.

In 2004, Wolfensohn was the commencement speaker at Brandeis University [2].

Wolfensohn also sits on the board of Endeavor (non-profit).

Personal life and honors

A friend of Jacqueline du Pré, he began cello studies with her at the age of 41. 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 in 1987,[9] and an honorary knighthood of the Order of the British Empire in 1995 for his service to the arts. The University of New South Wales conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Science 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 four grandchildren.

Further reading

  • The World's Banker by Sebastian Mallaby, ISBN 1-59420-023-8. Critical biography by former The Economist writer and Washington Post contributor, emphasis on World Bank.
  • Voice for the World's Poor: Selected Speeches and Writings of World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, 1995–2005 by James D. Wolfensohn and Andrew Kircher, ISBN 978-0821361566. Collection of speeches, articles, memoranda and op-eds.
  • A Global Life: My Journey among Rich and Poor, from Wall Street to the World Bank by James D. Wolfensohn, ISBN 978-1586482558. Forthcoming memoirs.


  1. ^ Sebastian Mallaby, The World's Banker, 2004
  2. ^ World Bank Bio Retrieved 7 May 2008
  3. ^ Citi Website Retrieved 7 May 2008
  4. ^ http://www.china-inv.cn/cicen/governance/management_international.html
  5. ^ James D. Wolfensohn, Annual Meeting Address, 1 October 1996, World Bank website Retrieved 7 May 2008
  6. ^ NNDB.com (2006). Alfalfa Club. Retrieved 21 May 2006.
  7. ^ CNN.com (2006). Wolfensohn steps down as Gaza envoy Retrieved 21 May 2006.
  8. ^ CNN.com (2006). Gift to Help Create Center on Poverty. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
  9. ^ It's An Honour (2008). WOLFENSOHN, James David. Retrieved 11 February 2008.

External links




  • [3] Iraq: Paris Club Debt Relief. CRS Report for Congress. Updated January 19 2005

"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."


Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Lewis T. Preston
President of the World Bank
Succeeded by
Paul Wolfowitz


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