Obama May Name Anna Wintour Ambassador to U.K. or France

Has Not Fulfilled Campaign Promise to Appoint More Career Diplomats

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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.

Anna Wintour
Anna Wintour Credit: Pier Marco Tacca

Megan Salt, a spokeswoman for Vogue, said Ms. Wintour isn't hoping for a diplomatic post. "She's very happy with her current job," Ms. Salt said.

But Ms. Wintour has repeatedly been rumored to be in the mix for an ambassador's post -- and interested.

If so, Ms. Wintour, 63, would have some competition for the London posting; Matthew Barzun, finance chairman of Mr. 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 personnel moves.

Both Ms. Wintour and Mr. 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 Mr. 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, Mr. Susman isn't expected to stay for a second term, the people said.

Ms. Wintour, born in the U.K. and now a U.S. citizen, is among Mr. 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, Conn., home of movie executive Harvey Weinstein.

The White House declined to comment, as did Lasry of Avenue Capital Management. Mr. 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 Mr. Obama's picks are slightly above the 30% 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," Ms. Johnson said. "Our expectations were lifted, only to be dashed by reality."

Ms. Wintour is "clearly an intelligent, energetic, capable, attractive, elegant person," Ms. Johnson added, "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 Regent's Park.

Mr. 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.

~Bloomberg News~

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