Ken Olisa

Ken Olisa

English businessman and philanthropist (born 1951)

Sir Kenneth Aphunezi Olisa OBE CStJ FRSA FBCS[1] (born 13 October 1951) is a British businessman and philanthropist. He is the first mixed heritage Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London. He founded and led the AIM-listed technology merchant bank Interregnum and now leads Restoration Partners. Ken Olisa is Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists and has served and serves on several boards of philanthropic, educational and regulator organisations. Sir Kenneth with his wife endowed the Olisa Library at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.

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Early life

Born in Nottingham[1] in 1951 of a Nigerian father and a British mother,[2] Olisa was educated at Nottingham High Pavement Grammar School and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where he held a scholarship and studied Natural Sciences and then Social, Political and Management Sciences. His technology career began in the 1970s at IBM.[3] Olisa married Julia Sherwood in Cambridge in 1976.[4]


At IBM he held various posts before joining Wang Laboratories[5] in 1981. Following a period as marketing director for Europe, VP of US Marketing and then of Worldwide Marketing based in Boston, he was appointed Senior VP and general manager of Europe, Africa and the Middle East (EAME) located in Brussels. He led the team which restored the EAME operation to profitability, following which he launched an unsuccessful management buyout resulting in his departure in 1992.

Olisa then founded Interregnum, a technology merchant bank, leading it through its early growth, its entry into and exit from a joint venture with BDO Stoy Hayward, the AIM IPO in 2000. He was also a principal advisor to, and director of,, which was later sold to Barry Diller's USA Interactive in 2003. Olisa retired from Interregnum in 2006 and now runs Restoration Partners.[6]

Olisa has considerable public company board-level experience on both sides of the Atlantic. He was the first British-born black man to serve on the board of a major UK public company (Reuters) and is a former non-executive director of Thomson Reuters (where he was a member of the Audit Committee),[7] and is also a former non-executive director and Deputy Chairman of the Institute of Directors.

He was a Director and Chairman of the Remuneration Committee of Canada's largest independent software developer, Open Text Corporation. More recently, he served as a non-executive director of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) from 2007 and from which he was fired over governance concerns after which he coined the expression "More Soviet than City" to describe the way he and Sir Richard Sykes had been treated. He also serves on the boards of, or is an adviser to, several privately held and innovative companies including the UK's leading corporate governance advisor Independent Audit.[8]

Olisa is also Chairman of the Thebes Group and not for profit Shaw Trust.[9]

In 2009, The Sunday Times named him Not for Profit non-executive director of the year, and in 2016 he was voted number one in the Powerlist's Top 10 most influential British black people.[10]

In November 2017, Olisa succeeded Adedotun Sulaiman as the Chairman of Interswitch and in 2018 he joined the Board of Huawei (UK) resigning in March 2022[11]

In January 2023, Olisa was appointed Chairman of BusinessLDN (formerly known as London First)[12] following the retirement of Paul Drechsler.

Honours and appointments

Olisa, speaking as Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London in 2018

Olisa was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2010 Birthday Honours for services to homeless people in London, a Commander of the Order of St John in 2017 and a Knight Bachelor in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to business and philanthropy.[13][14][15] Olisa was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London on 29 May 2015.[16]

In 2018, he was awarded honorary doctorates by Kingston University[17] and by Nottingham Trent University.[18] He received a further honorary doctorate from the University of Worcester in 2019.[19]

Olisa is a Freeman of the City of London; President of Thames Reach, a charity working to shelter and resettle the homeless in London; Founder and Chairman of the Powerlist Foundation (now the Aleto Foundation); Fellow of the British Computer Society since 2006; Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; Life Fellow of the Institute of Directors; and, in 2021, he was appointed High Bailiff and Searcher of the Sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. In that role, he took part in the 2023 Coronation.[20]

Olisa is also a patron of several charities, including School-Home Support (SHS), a charity helping disadvantaged children and young people overcome barriers to education such as poverty, domestic abuse, and housing issues; Fore, a charity which funds scale-up initiatives for other charities; and the Black Cultural Archives. In 2019, he was appointed President of London Youth.[21]

His past appointments include serving as Master of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, Director of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, member of the Government's Women's Enterprise Taskforce; Governor of the Peabody Trust for ten years; non-executive director of the West Lambeth NHS Trust; and a start-up regulator twice: first as an inaugural Postal Services Commissioner, from 2001 to 2004, and as a board member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, the body charged with managing the expenses, pay and pensions of members of parliament.

On 19 March 2019, Olisa greeted Queen Elizabeth II and the Duchess of Cambridge at the opening of the newly refurbished Bush House.[22]

On 17 May 2021, Olisa became High Bailiff and Searcher of the Sanctuary at Westminster Abbey in succession to Sir Roy Strong.[23][24]

In October 2021 Olisa was elected as an Honorary Bencher of the Inner Temple

He is a trustee of The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund.[25]

He is the patron of Red Trouser Day, a charity which raises awareness of colorectal cancer.[26]


  1. "Sir Ken Olisa OBE, CStJ, FRSA, FBCS". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  2. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  3. "Ken Olisa lecture online". Fitzwilliam College. 2013. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  4. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  5. "WANG Megatrends" via YouTube.
  6. "Home – Restoration Partners". Restoration Partners. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  7. "Board of Directors". Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  8. "Powerlist website". Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  9. "Sir Kenneth Olisa announced as new Chair of BusinessLDN". BusinessLDN (previously London First). 6 October 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  10. "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 12.
  11. "No. 61959". The London Gazette. 15 June 2017. p. 11602.
  12. "No. 62150". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2017. p. N2.
  13. "No. 61247". The London Gazette. 3 June 2015. p. 10268.
  14. "Lord Lieutenant and respected theatre maker to receive honorary degrees". Nottingham Trent University. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  15. "Coronation order of service in full". BBC News. Retrieved 6 May 2023.
  16. Kahla, Cheryl (22 March 2019). "Kate Middleton's first solo outing with the Queen". The South African. Archived from the original on 16 July 2020. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  17. "Order of Service". Westminster Abbey. 17 May 2021.
  18. "Governance". The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund. Retrieved 26 June 2022.
  19. "Patron". Red Trouser Day. Retrieved 1 December 2022.
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