Barack Obama’s chief fundraiser, who claims descent from a Puritan pioneer, has emerged as the overwhelming favourite to be the next United States ambassador to London.
The White House is expected to officially unveil Matthew Barzun as the US President’s choice for the plum diplomatic job within weeks. Louis Susman, the current ambassador and a former fundraiser himself, will leave his post in early April.
Mr Barzun, 42, still has to pass through a vetting process and be approved by the Senate. But he is expected to clear those hurdles, having served as ambassador to Sweden from 2009 to 2011.
His selection will be seen as further evidence of the role money plays in high profile US ambassadorial appointments.
The Court of St James, with residency in the splendour of Winfield House in Regent’s Park, will be his reward for acting as national finance chairman of the successful 2012 Obama campaign. He also personally “bundled” an estimated $1 million from various donors.
As Mr Obama’s most trusted fundraiser, he was able to see off a challenge by Anna Wintour, the British-born editor of Vogue, for what is regarded in Washington as the most coveted posting in the president’s gift. Ms Wintour was regarded as an early contender for London or Paris, but may have been damaged by the fact that her boyfriend, J Shelby Bryan, owes the US government more than $1.2 million (£760,000) in taxes.
Mr Barzun made his money at the gadget news and reviews website CNET. Raised in Massachusetts and educated at Harvard, he joined the company as its fourth employee in 1993 and stayed for 11 years, rising to chief strategy officer before starting his own consultancy for internet media firms.
He became involved with Democratic Party at an early age, acting as a student intern in 1989 for Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, and working on fundraising for the senator’s failed 2004 White House bid.
During Mr Obama’s 2008 campaign, Mr Barzun broke new ground by using his online know-how to galvanise small-scale contributors, who were crucial to the young senator’s historic victory as the first black US president.
Mr Barzun’s forebears include John Winthrop, a wealthy English Puritan lawyer and one of the leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first major settlement after Plymouth Colony.
Winthrop led the first large wave of migrants from England in 1630, serving as an early governor of the colony. His writings and vision of the colony as a Puritan “city upon a hill” heavily influenced New England colonial thinking and development. He is credited with popularising the phrase, from the Sermon on the Mount, which helped give rise to the belief that America is God’s country.
Mr Barzun has three young children and is married to Brooke Lee Brown, a scion of one of the world’s biggest drinks companies, Brown-Forman. The Kentucky-based company has 4,120 employees worldwide. Its brands include Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort and Finlandia Vodka.
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