James D. Wolfensohn

James D. Wolfensohn

Chairman, Wolfensohn & Company and Former President, World Bank Group

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Sir James Wolfensohn (1933) is Chairman of Wolfensohn & Company, LLC, a firm which he started in 1982 to advise the senior managements of major international corporations on acquisition strategy and implementation.  In the firm, he was joined by Paul Volcker and Frank Petito, former Chair of Morgan Stanley.  Each acted as Chair of the firm.  He left the firm in 1995 to become President of the World Bank Group (1995-2005), during which he travelled to more than 120 countries, and thereafter held the post of Special Envoy for Gaza disengagement representing the Quartet:  the USA, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union (2005-06).  During his absence, the firm was sold ultimately to the Deutsche Bank, which allowed him to reconstitute his firm in 2007.  Earlier in his professional life, he worked in the Schroder group from 1962, starting at Darling and Company in Australia and thereafter in other leading positions, finishing as Executive Deputy Chairman and Group Chief Executive of Schroders Limited in London.  In 1977, he retired and became a member of the Executive Committee of Salomon Brothers in New York, responsible for Corporate Finance, until he created his own firm in 1982.  Wolfensohn also served as Chairman of the Citigroup International Advisory Board (2006-2014).

While pursuing his business career he built a life working in public service, the Arts and philanthropy.  He became Chair of the Customs House and worked with David Rockefeller, Senator Moynihan and a distinguished board, to save that historic building in lower New York City.  Subsequently, he joined the Board of Carnegie Hall in 1972 and helped save it from destruction.  He restored the Hall while serving as Chairman from 1980 to 1991 when, at the request of President Bush, he became Chair of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington until 1995.  Sir James was appointed as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1994) and as a Member of the American Philosophical Society (1997), and still serves as Chairman Emeritus for both the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. 

Wolfensohn was Chairman of the board of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (1986-2007).  During these years he joined the Boards and chaired the Finance Committee of the Rockefeller Foundation and related entities.  He served during this time on the Boards of the Kennedy Family Trust, the Carnegie Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Center and Yad Hanadiv, a Foundation of the Rothschild Family. 

Wolfensohn earned degrees of B.A. and LL.B. at the University of Sydney and qualified as a lawyer (1957).  He became an officer in the Royal Australian Air force and a member of the Australian Olympic Team in 1956.  He received an M.B.A. from the Harvard Graduate School of Business in 1959.  He has received national recognition from fifteen countries, including the Knighthood from the UK and the highest orders from Germany, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Morocco, France, Holland, and others.  He has received honorary degrees, awards and medals from many institutions throughout the world in recognition of his public service and his support for the arts, and has most recently been honored as a recipient of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.

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