President Barack Obama is considering
nominating Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, as his next
ambassador to either the U.K. or France as he looks to reward
his biggest fundraisers with embassies never out of fashion,
according to two people familiar with the matter.
Wintour, 63, may have some competition for the London
posting; Matthew Barzun, finance chairman of Obama’s
presidential campaign, also is interested in the job, officially
known as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, said the
people, who requested anonymity when discussing possible
Both Wintour and Barzun were among Obama’s biggest bundlers
of donations in the campaign, with each raising more than
$500,000 to help re-elect the president. Marc Lasry, the
managing partner and founder of Avenue Capital Management, also
wants the Paris embassy, said the people.
As Obama considers how to reshape his national security
team — nominations for secretary of state and defense could be
made as soon as this week — he also will be tending to his
political organization. In January, he will install Florida
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz for another cycle as the
chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, according to a
Democratic Party official. His fundraisers are preparing to
solicit donations for his inauguration parties, which cost
almost $45 million four years ago.
The current U.S. envoy to the U.K., Louis Susman, was a
Chicago-based investment banker and bundler for Obama’s campaign
in 2008 before becoming ambassador. Like Obama’s other political
ambassadorial appointees — Pittsburgh Steelers football team
owner Dan Rooney, who is serving in Ireland, and Charles Rivkin,
the former chief executive of Muppets creator Jim Henson Co. —
who is posted in France, Susman isn’t expected to stay for a
second term, the people said.
Wintour, born in the U.K. and now a U.S. citizen, is among
Obama’s top 10 fundraisers, two of the people said. She co-
hosted a $40,000-a-plate event in June at the New York City home
of actress Sarah Jessica Parker. Then in August, she hosted a
dinner that cost $35,800 per person at the Westport,
Connecticut, home of movie executive Harvey Weinstein.
Megan Salt, a spokeswoman for Vogue, said Wintour isn’t
interested in a diplomatic post. “She’s very happy with her
current job,” Salt said. Advance Publications Inc. is the
parent of Vogue publisher Conde Nast.
The White House declined to comment, as did Lasry of Avenue
Capital Management. Barzun, a former U.S. ambassador to Sweden
who formerly was an executive at CNET Networks Business
Technology, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Rewarding donors with ambassadorships is a staple of the
presidency, and Obama’s picks are slightly above the 30 percent
average for envoys drawn from outside the career foreign
service, said Susan Johnson, the president of the American
Foreign Service Association. In his first term, Obama nominated
59 ambassadors, including 40 bundlers, who lacked experience in
the diplomatic corps.
“When he ran for election in 2008, on several occasions,
Obama declared his intent to appoint more career people, and
that has not actually happened,” said Johnson. “Our
expectations were lifted, only to be dashed by reality.”
Wintour is “clearly an intelligent, energetic, capable,
attractive, elegant person,” Johnson said, “but having
experience in the practice of diplomacy and international
relations is really a great advantage.”
Ambassadors’ positions in most Western European capitals
come with some of the cities’ grandest residences, and London is
no exception. Sold to the U.S. government for $1 by Woolworth
heiress Barbara Hutton after World War II, the official
residence, Winfield House, has a sweeping lawn that leads into
Obama held his first meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao at Winfield House in April 2009 and hosted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip for a banquet there as part of
his state visit to the U.K. in May 2011.
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