Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn Dies At 86: NPR

Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, pictured in 2006, died on Tuesday. He was 86 years old.


hide caption

toggle legend


Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, pictured in 2006, died on Tuesday. He was 86 years old.


James Wolfensohn, whose decade-long reforms at the helm of the World Bank Group made him known as a champion for the world’s poor, died in New York on Tuesday. He was 86 years old.

The Sydney-born banker was President of the World Bank from 1995 to 2005. Throughout his tenure at the helm, he led its transformation, “by increasing decentralization, advancing the Bank technologically and making the organization more open and transparent ”, World Bank Group. President David Malpass said in a declaration Wednesday.

Malpass added that under Wolfensohn’s presidency, the Washington-based organization “has focused on poverty reduction and redoubled its efforts to fight corruption, give voice to the poor and amplify the impact of poverty. investments in development “.

Part of Wolfensohn’s strategy to reduce global poverty was to accelerate the shift from hard-to-maintain infrastructure projects in developing countries to lending programs more focused on the social sector. He also focused his efforts on rebuilding war-torn countries, including Rwanda and Bosnia.

Under his leadership, the World Bank has become one of the main funders of primary education, health, HIV / AIDS and environment programs, according to its website.

In 2010 Wolfenson published a thesis, “A Global Life: My Journey Among Rich and Poor, from Sydney to Wall Street to the World Bank.”

Prior to his appointment by President Bill Clinton and later by George W. Bush, Wolfensohn was dismissed for the post of head of the World Bank in 1981. As a result, he founded his own investment bank in New York, Wolfensohn & Co.

This is also around the time he gave up his Australian citizenship to become American in order to be eligible for the job in the future.

Wolfensohn has spent most of his life in the United States. He attended Harvard Business School in 1957 and obtained a master’s degree in business administration.

At Harvard, he befriended billionaire David Rockefeller Jr., according to at Bloomberg. “Wolfensohn credited Rockefeller – the grandson of oil baron John D. Rockefeller – with the opportunities he found in his adopted country,” the outlet reported.

After his stint at the Ivy League, he returned to Australia where he became Managing Director of Darling & Co. before joining an investment bank in London. In the mid-1970s, he last moved to the United States as an executive partner at Salomon Brothers.

In addition to Wolfensohn’s long career in finance, he was an accomplished cellist and philanthropist. As a longtime music lover, he raised $ 60 million to rebuild Carnegie Hall in New York City, even performing alongside world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

He also founded the Wolfensohn Center for Development at the Washington think tank, the Brookings Institution, which focused on anti-poverty programs and global economic governance.

In his youth, Wolfensohn was an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and represented Australia in fencing at the 1956 Olympics.

Wolfensohn’s wife, Elaine, passed away earlier this year. He is survived by three children.