Charles Kestenbaum, president of BKI, is widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts on Middle East business. He cofounded BKI following a distinguished career as a senior United States Trade Specialist in the Middle East and Asia.
Kestenbaum served 24 years in the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service at U.S. Embassies in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia, and supervised the 1991 Rebuild Kuwait program for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Kestenbaum also has served as commercial liaison office director in the U.S. executive director’s office at the World Bank. He has negotiated trade agreements; counseled U.S. and international companies on all aspects of establishing and running businesses in the region; run trade shows and exhibitions in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, and Baghdad; and conducted extensive market research throughout the region. Since leaving government work in 2002, Kestenbaum has been a Middle East business consultant to Fortune 500 companies, has established several security companies in Iraq, and has worked as a director of business development for a leading international risk management and investigation firm. Prior to joining the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service in 1979, Kestenbaum worked in Middle East journalism as Cairo bureau manager, Beirut bureau manager, TV producer, radio correspondent, and news editor for NBC News. Kestenbaum covered the Lebanese civil war for NBC News (1975–78) and covered the original Camp David Peace negotiations. He was Cairo correspondent for Mideast markets and wrote for the Middle East Economic Digest.
Kestenbaum is a lecturer and teacher, including preparing Foreign Service officers for Embassy careers and diplomatic assignments through training programs at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center. He teaches classes in anti-corruption, competitiveness, in how U.S. companies operate successfully abroad, in how to forge public/private company relations, and in how to support U.S. economic national security interests by our Embassies abroad.
Kestenbaum has done postgraduate research at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He holds a master’s degree from the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and earned a B.A. in Arabic Studies from the State University of New York at Binghamton. He speaks Arabic, Indonesian, and French.