David M. Rubenstein was appointed Chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in May 2010. He is the sixth chairman of the arts organization, having been a member of its board since 2004. The federal government generally provides $35-$40 million in funding to the Center annually.
Rubenstein was born in 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of a father who was a U.S. Postal Service file clerk, and a mother who worked in a dress shop. Recalling his upbringing in a religious neighborhood, he told Washingtonian magazine, “I was literally 12 or 13 before I realized that everybody in the world isn’t Jewish.” Then he went to a public high school and discovered that “virtually nobody is Jewish.” He attended Baltimore City College High School, and spent his summers working as a camp counselor, a postal worker, and a door-to-door magazine salesman.
Rubenstein attended Duke University on a scholarship and graduated in 1970. In 1973 he earned his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, where he served as editor of the Law Review.
Rubenstein joined Jimmy Carter’s presidential election campaign in 1976, working with Carter consultant Stuart Eizenstat to draft domestic policy. After Carter’s election, Rubenstein joined his administration as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, a post he held until Carter left office in1981. He then joined the Washington, D.C. law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts and Trowbridge, becoming a partner after six years.
In 1987, Rubenstein and several friends met at New York’s Carlyle Hotel and came up with the idea of creating a private equity firm to do venture capital and buyouts. They raised $5 million and launched The Carlyle Group, which, over the years, has become one of the world’s largest private equity firms, managing more than $90 billion in assets, with 300,000 employees in 26 offices around the world. One of the companies Carlyle controls is United Defense Industries (now part of BAE Systems), one of the world’s largest defense contractors. Rubenstein is the group’s managing director. Among those connected with Carlyle are former president George H.W. Bush, who is an adviser, and former British Prime Minister John Major, who was chairman of Carlyle’s European operations from 2001 until 2004.