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George Woods and the World Bank

Oliver, Robert W. (1989) George Woods and the World Bank. Humanities Working Paper, 139. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

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PREFACE.<br> George David Woods became the fourth president of the World Bank on January 1, 1963. John F. Kennedy, personally, urged Woods to accept. In August, 1962, Eugene Black invited Woods to the White House where Kennedy told Woods, in effect: Everything we in the United States have done since the end of the war, including the Marshall Plan, to try to build a peaceful and stable world is threatened by the growing gap between the poor and the rich countries. If that is not solved, it is going to cause the collapse of all our policies, including American foreign policy. We have to do something about this, and I think the World Bank, of the institutions available, is the most promising. This is our chosen instrument, and I want you, George Woods, to be the one to make the Bank a bridge between the poor and the rich countries. 1 Born in poverty, raised in Brooklyn by his adoring mother after the early death of his father, John Woods, and lacking a college education, George Woods, nonetheless, brought an impressive background to the task. At age 17, he became a messenger boy for Harris, Forbes and Company; at age 50, he was Chairman of the Board of the First Boston Corporation, an investment-banking firm which "was raising more money for more corporations than any other investment-banking house in the world. ,,2 As a young man in his twenties, accompanied by the young Arthur Dean who later served as chief negotiator to end the Korean War and, incidentally, was Woods's "best man", Woods won the account of the Nippon Light and Power Company. As a Broadway Angel, he made a small fortune in the theater by backing Sailor Beware, Dead End and Outward Bound. During the dark days of the depression, Woods successfully marketed the bonds of the Southern California Edison Company. He "saved" Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey and the New York Times. He had a distinguished career in Washington during World War II as a Colonel in the General Staff Corp under Generals Somervell and Clay. Through a merger with Mellon Securities Corporation after World War II, George Woods made First Boston, at that time, the largest publicly-owned investment banking firm in the United States. In 1952, First Boston, together with Morgan Stanley, began to manage the new World Bank bonds. That same year, Woods headed a World Bank mission to investigate the possibility of expanding and amalgamating two steel companies in India. Later, he helped to organize development banks in India, Pakistan and the Philippines. He played an important role in settling the compensation for the previous shareholders of the Suez Canal Company after its nationalization. Woods, in New York, was in almost daily contact with Black, in Washington. Woods knew more about the World Bank than anyone nominated to be president, with the possible exception of Eugene Black himself, who had already been the United States Executive Director for two years before becoming president. Woods was a banker. In the words of Woods's wife, Louise, "He never suffered fools gladly." He was very bright, however; his was probably the keenest intellect of any president of the World Bank, and he presided over a significant transition in the Bank's history: from Eugene Black, who firmly established the Bank and sold its bonds to the world, to Robert McNamara, who greatly expanded the Bank and increased its lending, perhaps excessively. 1. Robert W. Oliver, "A Conversation with Irving Friedman, I," Conversations About George Woods and the World Bank, Washington, D.C., March 1974, pp. 26-7. 2. "The Biggest Underwriter Finds the Big Money." Business Week, March 6,1971, p. 64. 2 Woods emphasized education and agriculture. He expanded the economics staff. He looked outward to the international organizations which could assist development. He took in the newly independent nations of Africa. He tried greatly to increase the lending of the International Development Association. In 1935, Woods married the vivacious Louise Teraldson. They were a marvelous team. Louise accompanied George as he flew hither and yon on missions for the World Bank. She didn't seek entry to Woods's world of finance, nor he to her world of assisting young people from the Institute for International Education or the World Bank's Young Professional's Program. They had no children, but they were together in the evening dining, more likely than not, at the Twenty One Club in New York or entertaining in Washington. This is the story of a remarkable man who rose from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to a position of preeminence in the investment banking business. From the pinnacle of that vantage point, he was able increasingly to turn his attention to public affairs until, in 1963, he became President of the World Bank. He succeeded because of hard work, a brilliant mind, and attention to detail. His path was not without pitfalls, but he persevered; he left the Bank with the dream of greatly increased economic assistance based on "a Grand Assize." He was the right man in the right place for his time.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Group:Humanities Working Papers
Series Name:Humanities Working Paper
Issue or Number:139
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20111118-134027808
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Official Citation:Oliver, Robert W. George Woods and the World Bank. Pasadena, CA: California Institute of Technology, 1989. Humanities Working Paper, No.139.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:27862
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:21 Feb 2012 21:42
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 03:27

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