Jonathan Kestenbaum, Baron Kestenbaum

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Jonathan Andrew Kestenbaum, Baron Kestenbaum (born 5 August 1959) is the Chief Operating Officer of RIT Capital Partners plc and a Labour member of the House of Lords. He is a former Chief Executive of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

Early life and education[edit]

Jonathan Kestenbaum was born on 5 August 1959 in Tokyo, Japan. Both his parents' families fled Nazi Germany – first to the United States, then Japan. The family moved to the UK in 1964 when he was five years old.

Kestenbaum is a great-grandson of Joseph Breuer and a great-great-great-grandson of Samson Raphael Hirsch.

Kestenbaum graduated from the London School of Economics where he read Economics and Anthropology and then pursued postgraduate study at Cambridge University in the Department of Anthropology. He completed an MA in Education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and was subsequently awarded a research scholarship in Education at the Hebrew University. On his return to the UK, Kestenbaum earned an MBA with distinction from the Cass Business School. He is a graduate of the Cabinet Office Top Management Programme and a graduate of the Strategic Agility Programme at Harvard 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, he started his career in education, building an international training programme for young educators.

Subsequently, Kestenbaum was Chief Executive of the Office of the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks and then Chief Executive of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA). Following a restructure which involved a merger with another UK charity, the UJIA won the National Charity Award [1][1]. He has also worked as Chief of Staff to Sir Ronald Cohen, the Chairman of Apax Partners and was founding Chief Executive of The Portland Trust.

In 2005 he became Chief Executive of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA). Whilst at NESTA he highlighted the importance of innovation to economic growth[2][3] and was an advocate for UK technology start-ups.[4][5]

In 2010 he was appointed Chairman of Five Arrows Ltd and subsequently became Chief Operating Officer of RIT Capital Partners plc.[6][7]

Kestenbaum has served in a number of non-executive roles. He was on the Board of the Design Council and Enterprise Insight, and was Non-Executive Chairman of Quest, a large accounting business. He served on the Governing Body of the Technology Strategy Board, acted as a Commissioner of the Manchester Independent Economic Review[8] [8] and also Chairman of the City of Manchester Science Review. He has recently completed his term of office on the Innovation Advisory Group at Imperial College and is now Adjunct Professor at the Imperial College Business School. He also served on the Board of the Royal Shakespeare Company and was involved in developing the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

He chairs the Board of Directors of The Capital Holdings Funds (EDR Group), as well as serving on the Board of Pershing Square Holdings. He was a member of the Board of Profero, a digital marketing company. In January 2014 Profero was sold to Lowe, a subsidiary of Interpublic Group (IPG).[9][9]

In 2001 Kestenbaum represented Great Britain at football in the 16th Maccabiah Games. The Maccabiah is the third largest international tournament in the world after the Olympics and the Asian Games. In 2009 he returned to the Maccabiah as the Manager of the Great Britain football team. Kestenbaum and senior coach Les Reed took the Great Britain side to the silver medal, becoming the first British team to reach the football final at the tournament for over fifty years.

In December 2013, Kestenbaum was installed as Chancellor of Plymouth University.

House of Lords[edit]

Kestenbaum was created a life peer on 24 January 2011 as Baron Kestenbaum of Foxcote in the County of Somerset.[10] He was introduced in the House of Lords on 26 January 2011,[11] and sits on the Labour benches.