Ambassador to Norway: Who Is George Tsunis?
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.
To Learn More:
George Tsunis of Cold Spring Harbor nominated to be Ambassador to Norway (by Tom Brune, Newsday)
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