He was manager of the Drury Lane theatre between 1788-1802 and after the death of his father in 1802 he invested money into the theatre. A fire in September 1808 destroyed the theatre with Kemble only avoiding bankruptcy with the assistance of friends. The increased ticket prices in the rebuilt theatre, which opened a year after the fire, lead to vocal outbursts from the crowd, drowning out the actors on stage. Called the OP [Old Prices] riot, it lasted for 67 evenings before a compromise was reached.
He retired, due to an asthmatic condition firstly to Toulouse and then in 1817 to Lausanne, Switzerland, where he died on 26th February 1823. He was buried at Lausanne Cemetery 1st March.