Ambassador to Norway: Who Is George Tsunis?

Saturday, December 07, 2013

President Barack Obama has chosen a strong supporter of his 2008 campaign rival, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) to be the next ambassador to Norway. Nominated September 10, George Tsunis contributed $50,000 to McCain’s 2008 presidential run before switching parties in 2009 and becoming a major donor to Obama’s 2012 re-election run. Tsunis is the chairman and CEO of Chartwell Hotels, which owns, develops and manages Hilton, Marriott and Intercontinental hotels in Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and manages his family’s portfolio of real estate holdings.


Because of his business’s presence in northern Pennsylvania, Tsunis told the National Herald that he  has taken advantage of the growth of natural gas fracking by “providing a lot of the picks and shovels for the Marcellus Shale.”


If confirmed by the Senate, Tsunis would succeed Barry B. White, who left Oslo in September after a four-year stint as ambassador. 


Tsunis’ father, James Tsunis, along with his cousin Charles, owned coffee shops and then developed the Bonwit Inn on Long Island in 1971, eventually investing in hotels and real estate.


Born in 1968, George James Tsunis earned a BA at New York University in 1989 and a JD at St. John’s University School of Law in 1992.


First bitten by the political bug in the 1980s, Tsunis’s first political work was as an aide to Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-New York), who served in the U.S. Senate from 1981 to 1999. In 1993, Tsunis ran a losing campaign as a GOP candidate for the Suffolk County Legislature, and in 1999 he was finance coordinator for Suffolk County Executive Robert Gaffney's re-election campaign.


After registering as a Democrat in November 2009, Tsunis raised at least $500,000 for Obama’s 2012 campaign, and donated $300,000 to Democratic super PACs and $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. According to state records, Tsunis and his wife, Olga, have given $115,000 to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign.


As a practicing attorney, Tsunis was a partner at the law firm of Rivkin Radler LLP, which is Long Island’s largest law firm, practicing land use and zoning, real estate, corporate, municipal law and commercial litigation.


Tsunis has engaged in public service over the years, including as a legislative attorney for the New York City Council, special counsel to the Town of Huntington Environmental Open Space Committee, and as counsel to the Dix Hills Water District. He also made a $1.25 million gift to Stony Brook University for the creation of the George and Olga Tsunis Center in Hellenic Studies and The James and Eleni Tsunis Chair in Hellenic Studies, the latter in honor of Tsunis’ parents.


A member of the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Tsunis is an archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Order of Saint Andrew)—the highest ecclesiastical honor that can be bestowed upon a layman—and serves on its National Council.


Tsunis’ only foreign policy experience consists of memberships on the Brookings Institution Foreign Policy Leadership Committee and its Metropolitan Leadership Council, as well as on Business Executives for National Security.


George Tsunis has been married to his wife Olga (Antzoulis) since November 2004. They live in Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, with their three children.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Corporate Biography

George Tsunis of Cold Spring Harbor nominated to be Ambassador to Norway (by Tom Brune, Newsday)

See all 29 comments


JW 8 years ago
We just returned from our 6th visit to Norway, and we heard from residents there that they are strongly opposed to having this nominee confirmed as Ambassador to Norway. From my own perspective, I certainly concur!
ALAN OLSON 9 years ago
H.M.Peters 9 years ago
I will welcome Mr. Tsunis to Norway. Everybody can make a mistake in a hearing. I think he will love to stay here in Norway and I am sure that he will be a good ambassador the next years. I will buy him a beer if I meet him in my city Oslo and tell him more about my country.
Carl Edward Takle 9 years ago
So some random heir has paid his way into diplomacy status. Great. Really what the world needs. Mr.Tsunis, please just get the hell out of our country. Your predecessor authorized illegal surveillance (and facilitated payment without required taxes). Based on what one can read about you through a simple google search, this intolerable situation is about to escalate. Go. Home.
Kjell Erik Eilertsen 9 years ago
If it looks like an idiot. If it sounds like an idiot. It is probably an idiot. Smart lawyer - who cares? After the hearing, nobody does. If America send this man as US ambassador to Norway, I believe many Norwegians, including myself will wonder, what the hell is going on in the US Senate. His learning curve is so steep, he will make himself the clown of the year, several years in a row, and will probably never be taken seriously.
Michael B. 9 years ago
I too have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Tsunis on numerous occasions. He is kind, compassionate, a thoughtful listener, and genuine. If measured by his authentic care and pride in preserving the special relationship that America enjoys with Norway, he will earn the trust, confidence, and affection of the Norwegian people. President Obama is sending Norway one of our finest citizens, if you keep an open mind, George will win your heart.
Peter m 9 years ago
I met tsunis twice and spoke to him about politics in general. Super smart lawyer. He was obviously super nervous as he new the powerful and often angry Macain-hated him for changing parties and stopping support to his failed campaign. Lets be transparent Macain in my opinion was out to get George tsunis. Macain is an admirals kid who managed to get shot down and become a prisoner of war. He has been financially supported by his rich beer family heiress wife. Tsunis is self made and highly educated. More than most of the ambassadors. Mark the humble words of this Ivy League professor that tsunis will do a great job for Norway and served our beloved United States well. :)
Chris 9 years ago
The US is a great country - still - but it is an insult by your president to send this guy here. Its like "we send this guy, he paid a lot of money for my reelection - which is great - now I can keep up piling on debt for the future generations to pay - Norway is a low priority so he can have it".. THIS GUY IS CLUELESS, he should not be sent here. He critizes the progressive party in Norway because they want to be tougher on immigration, but does this clown know that immigration laws in the US is much MORE strict than the progressive party could even dream of getting here? THERE IS NO BODER CONTROL WHATSOVER here to our neighbouring countries!! I suggest the US then tear down the boder to Mexico?? the US deserves better
Hans Anton Grønskag 9 years ago
Did the United States have no one but the unenlightened man to send as ambassador to Norway? Is not this bad USA commercials? Most people in Norway know more about all U.S. states than this man know about the country he should be ambassador in. Honestly, this is too silly! One of many outraged Norwegians
Not Our Fault 9 years ago
First of all, this guy is not "America's choice", nor does he represent all of us. All ambassadors are chosen by the sitting president, usually for past favors done to him, which is how nearly all ambassadors from every country are chosen. After nominated by the president, our Senate confirms him. Presently, Democrats have control of the Senate, and have recently done away with the rule requiring more than a slight majority to "win", so you'll very likely be stuck with this nincompoop. By blaming all of us for this, your derision and contempt is directed at the wrong group. Second, the fact that he doesn't know anything about Norway isn't really important, as he'll be told what to do and say once he gets there. Should he have prepared more for a confirmation hearing? Of course he should have, but he only embarrassed himself and this administration, not me or any other citizen. Again, he doesn't represent us, he represents Obama. Third, scoring a post in Norway would be a pretty sweet gig. It could have been somewhere meaningless like Mongolia, Ghana, or Solomon Islands. I'd certainly enjoy it.

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