James D. Wolfensohn spent 11 months, until April 2006, as the Middle East envoy of the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations).
He became president of the World Bank on 1 June 1995. Before joining the Bank, Wolfensohn was President and Chief Executive Officer of James D. Wolfensohn Inc, an investment firm that advised major international and U.S. corporations. He relinquished his interests in the firm upon joining the Bank.
Mr. Wolfensohn served as Executive Partner of Salomon Brothers in New York and head of its investment-banking department, Executive Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Schroeder’s Ltd in London, President of J. Henry Schroeder’s Banking Corporation in New York, and Managing Director, Darling & Co of Australia.
Born in Australia on December 1, 1933, Mr. Wolfensohn is a naturalized United States citizen. He holds a BA and LLB from the University of Sydney and an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business.
Prior to attending Harvard, Mr. Wolfensohn was a lawyer in the Australian law firm of Allen Allen & Hemsley. He served as an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, and was a member of the 1956 Australian Olympic Fencing Team.
Wolfensohn claims that his father, who settled in Australia between the wars, came to Palestine during World War I to mobilize volunteers for the Jewish Brigade (Hagedud Ha'ivri) of the British Army. "My father was the recruitment officer of the gedud," Wolfensohn told Haaretz in Jerusalem in December 2004. "He issued the Hebrew commands in the British Army." (If this happened, it must have been in 1918, after the British had occupied the southern half of Palestine in 1917.)