James David Wolfensohn KBE AO was an Australian-American lawyer, investment banker, and economist. He served as the ninth president of the World Bank Group. He is credited with the focus on poverty alleviation and a rethink on development financing, earning him recognition as a banker to the world’s poor.
About James Wolfensohn in brief
James David Wolfensohn KBE AO was an Australian-American lawyer, investment banker, and economist. He served as the ninth president of the World Bank Group. He is credited with the focus on poverty alleviation and a rethink on development financing, earning him recognition as a banker to the world’s poor. In his other roles, he brought Chrysler Corporation back from the brink of bankruptcy, and also improved the finances of major U.S. cultural institutions, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. He was born in Sydney, Australia, and was a graduate of the University of Sydney and Harvard Business School. He worked for various companies in Britain and the United States before forming his own investment firm. He became an American citizen in 1980 and renounced his Australian citizenship, although he eventually regained it in 2010. He also served as a member of the Australian fencing team at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, participating in the Men’s Team Épée and an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force. He later became a senior executive at Salomon Brothers. In 1979, together with Chrysler Corporation’s then chief executive officer Lee Iacoccaca and then President of the New York Fed Paul A. Volcker, he helped orchestrate the largest corporate bailout at that time, in addition to smoothening a cultural rift between the Japanese and the Americans.
In 1980, he became a naturalized United States citizen after it was rumored that he was a candidate to succeed Robert McNamara as United States president. He then established his investment firm, James D. Wolfen sohn, Inc., along with partners Paul Volcker and James McNamara, who went on to invest more than USD 600million in the company. He died in New York City in 2011, at the age of 83. He had a son, James, who was born on 1 December 1933 in Sydney. His father, Hyman, was a highly intelligent but failed businessman who had previously worked for the Rothschild banking family. His mother, Dora, had been born in Belgium to Polish parents, and his mother sang with Australian radio and gave him piano lessons, instilling in him a love of the symphony. He wrote in his memoir about the poverty and inequity, “The inequity was so striking that I could hardly absorb what was in front of me. It left an indelible mark that would influence my later life.” He was named after James Armand de Rothschild, his father’s former employer, whose birthday he shared. In 1959 he earned a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business school.