Chancellor Jonathan Kestenbaum

Chancellor Jonathan Kestenbaum


Jonathan Kestenbaum is the Chief Operating Officer of RIT Capital Partners plc and a member of the company’s operating Board, J Rothschild Capital Management. RIT Capital plc was founded by Lord Rothschild and has its headquarters in Spencer House. It is today one of Britain’s most respected listed investment companies. He was also Chairman of Five Arrows Ltd and a former Chief Executive of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

Since 2010, Jonathan Kestenbaum has been a member of The House of Lords.

Lord Kestenbaum was born in Tokyo, Japan, the second child of Ralph Kestenbaum and Gaby Goldblatt, who were descendants of German Jewish families. Both his parents' families had fled Nazi Germany – first to the United States, then Japan. The family moved to the UK in 1964 when he was five years old.

Lord Kestenbaum graduated from the London School of Economics before pursuing post graduate work at Cambridge University. He earned an MBA with distinction from the Cass Business School, and is also a graduate of the Strategic Agility Programme at The Harvard Business School. He completed the Cabinet Office Top Management Programme and is an Adjunct Professor at the Imperial College Business School.

He has an Honorary Doctorate in Technology from The University of Plymouth and is an Honorary Fellow of The Royal College of Art.

Before becoming active in business, Lord Kestenbaum started his career in education, building an international training programme for young educators.

He then helped develop the family commodity trading business, which was a ring-dealing member of the London Metal Exchange and subsequently sold in a management buyout.

Lord Kestenbaum then entered public service and was appointed Chief Executive of the Office of the Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks. After five years, he was appointed to head one of the Chief Rabbis leading voluntary organisations and became Chief Executive of the UJIA. Following a restructure, which involved a merger with several other UK charities, the UJIA won the National Charity Award in 2001.

He then returned to business and was appointed as Chief of Staff to Sir Ronald Cohen, the Chairman of Apax Partners, one of Europe’s largest private equity company’s. He was also founding Chief Executive of Portland Trust.

In 2005 he became Chief Executive of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA). NESTA was the largest source of investment capital for technology start ups. As CEO, he highlighted the importance of innovation to economic growth and was an advocate for UK technology start-ups. He published his views on Innovation extensively whilst CEO at NESTA and was a regular voice in the national media.

Lord Kestenbaum has served in a number of non-executive roles – both in the public and private domains.  He was on the Board of the Design Council and Enterprise Insight, and was Non-Executive Chairman of Quest, a large accounting business. He was a Commissioner of the Manchester Independent Economic Review which looked at ways to enhance the city’s economic development and also Chairman of the City of Manchester Science Review. He completed his term of office on the Innovation Advisory Group at Imperial College and is a past member of the Governing Body of the Technology Strategy Board. He also served on the Board of Directors of Profero – the largest privately held digital media business in Britain.

Jonathan was created a life peer in November 2010 as Baron Kestenbaum of Foxcote in the County of Somerset. He was introduced in the House of Lords on 26 January 2011. He speaks in the Lords on Economic Affairs and Innovation.

Lord Kestenbaum is married to Deborah who is Deputy Head Teacher of the Independent Day school and they have four children.  He enjoys the theatre and has served on the Board of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Whilst a Director of the RSC; he was extensively involved in building the new theatre at Stratford in Avon.  He has been a season ticket holder at Arsenal for many years and is an avid follower.