Founder & CEO


Ajit Gunewardene

Among Sri Lanka’s most renowned business leaders, Ajit’s career has been instrumental in providing strategic direction and business insight which enabled John Keells Holdings PLC to grow from an LKR 1 billion Market Cap (1992) to LKR 190 billion (2016). In his 34 years at the company, his focus has been on real estate, leisure, financial services, retail businesses- distinguishing himself by leading the respective sector business to market leadership positions.

He functioned as a founding Director and, subsequently, Chairman of Nations Trust Bank where he provided strategic direction and leadership in building the bank. In addition, he provided leadership for other financial organizations when he served as Chairman and Director of Union Assurance as well as establishing Sri Lanka’s leading stock brokering company John Keells Stock Brokers (Pvt) Ltd.

As the head of the John Keells’ leisure sector, Ajit transformed Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts from a dispersed local brand into one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent leisure chains in Sri Lanka and Maldives. He acquired hotels and resorts, unified the offering, rebranded the chains and while doing so created a real estate company that is now the country’s largest.

In retail, Ajit was instrumental in mentoring and guiding the island’s largest branded retail business ‘Odel’. As its seed Investor and Chairman, Ajit guided the management, took them public and sold the company in 2014.

His leadership has also been sought by regulatory authorities when Ajit functioned as the Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) from 2000 – 2003. He was also an advisor to the various governments in Sri Lanka, functioning independently without any political affiliations. He was a member of the Prime Ministers Taskforce for Financial Sector Reform and also functioned as a Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.

Ajit is currently on the Board of the BOI and Head of the Task Force for Foreign Direct Investment and Exports.