President Barack Obama is considering nominating Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, to be either his next ambassador to the U.K. or France, as he looks to reward his biggest fundraisers with embassies that never seem out of fashion, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Wintour, 63, may have some competition for the London posting, with Matthew Barzun, the finance chairman of Obama’s presidential campaign, also interested in the job, officially known as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, said the people, who requested anonymity.
Both Wintour and Barzun were among Obama’s biggest bundlers 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, covets the Paris embassy, said the people.
As Obama considers how to reshape his national security team, with nominations for secretary of state and defense coming 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 party’s chairwoman, according to a Democratic Party official. His fundraisers are preparing to solicit donations for his inauguration party, which cost almost $45 million four years ago.
Louis Susman, the current U.S. envoy to the U.K., 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 plate event in June at actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s house. Then in August, she hosted a Connecticut dinner that cost $35,800 per person at the 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 has a sweeping lawn that leads into Regent’s Park.
Obama held his first meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao at Winfield house in April of 2009 and hosted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip for a banquet there as part of the president’s state visit to the U.K. in May 2011.
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