Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA)
Jonathan Coles combines the spirit of a businessperson and the soul of an artist. He has experience working in both public and business sectors, having achieved notable success in both. In public service, Coles occupied the post of cabinet minister of agriculture and livestock in Venezuela. In this role, Coles led the agricultural trade reform and reduced the deficit by two-thirds through developing exports and concentrating on competitive national production. Furthermore, he reduced permits and controls to reduce opportunities for corruption and negotiated 1.1 billion USD in structural adjustment loans with World Bank and Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) for financing infrastructure and project investments.
As chair and CEO at Mavesa S.A., former leading local oil and soap company, Coles converted the company into a professionally managed and internationally traded leading brand firm, increasing company value (more than six times) through growth, acquisitions, and public listing in the Caracas Stock Exchange. This led to much higher value and liquidity for shareholders. Under Coles’ leadership the company acquired three major competitors and divested low margin lines to obtain national market leadership in branded food products. Coles also contributed to agribusiness policy formulation, resulting in better prices and conditions for agriculture producers and consumers of all socioeconomic levels.
As president-dean of Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA), Coles obtained three international accreditations—AACSB, EQUIS, and AMBA—that resulted in improved international ranking, despite the local political and economic crises, and turned IESA in one of only two business schools in Latin America to obtain “triple crown” accreditation. Further, he headed the effort to increase faculty and business executive participation in the leadership of the school, led the promotion of a new “sister” business school in Panama, and initiated other key international alliances, such as participation in Harvard’s SEKN (Social Enterprise Knowledge Network). Coles also was key in creating research centers for developing entrepreneurship, energy, and environment studies as well as other essential areas of development in Venezuela and the region.
Coles managed to keep IESA afloat during the PDVSA strike in late 2002 and early 2003 that severely constricted the flow of oil and gasoline for several months. The work halt developed into a general, undefined strike, coupled with increasing scarcity of consumer goods. This period was rife with political, social, and economic unrest, including riots, plunders, protest rallies, and violence in the streets. Coles implemented a turnaround program and managed to attract financial assistance from organizations and individuals to reestablish financial health to the institution.
Additionally, in contribution to his local society, Coles has held numerous directorships at organizations including Harvard Latin American Research Council, Banco Mercantil C.A., Mercantil Servicios Financieros C.A., Mercantil Commercebank, N. A., S.C. Johnson, El Nacional
, and Venezuela Competitiva, a nonprofit organization created to promote initiatives to strengthen the competitive ability of individuals and organizations in Venezuela.