Ambassador to the United Kingdom: Who Is Matthew Barzun?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The new ambassador to the United Kingdom is Matthew Barzun, a major bundler who raised at least $500,000 towards both of  Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, but whose nomination was strongly supported by Barzun’s home state senator—Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Nominated on July 10, Barzun was confirmed by the Senate by unanimous consent on August 1, 2013. He succeeded Louis Susman, who served from 2009 to 2013.
 

Born October 23, 1970, in New York City, Matthew Winthrop Barzun grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and attended St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire. He earned a B.A. in History and Literature at Harvard in 1993, and spent a summer internship working in the office of U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), a fellow St. Paul’s alumnus and a distant relative, as both are descended from Massachusetts founder John Winthrop, whom Barzun described as his “ten times great grandfather.” His paternal grandfather was eminent historian Jacques Barzun.  

 

After graduating Harvard, Barzun joined the fledgling CNET as the company’s fourth employee. He spent the next decade rising up through the growing Internet business. In 1995 he was promoted to vice president of Software Services, where he led the acquisition of the Virtual Software Library, a library of downloadable software. He was in charge of launching CNET’s Download.com service, and he became senior vice president in 1998.

 

The following year he married his wife, Brooke Brown, heiress of the Brown-Forman Corp. distilling empire, which includes the brands Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve. In 2000, he was promoted again, to chief strategy officer. He remained at CNET until 2004, when he left to relocate to Louisville, Kentucky, to start his own consulting company, Brickpath LLC, which advises Internet media companies.

 

That same year Barzun helped raise money for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid.

 

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barzun joined Obama’s National Finance Committee, and was credited with pioneering low-cost, large-scale events that drew in thousands of supporters. He raised more than half a million dollars for Obama, according to OpenSecrets.org, and he donated $4,600 of his own money. He also contributed $25,000 to Obama’s inauguration fund. Barzun and his family contributed more than $290,000 to political campaigns and groups during the 2008 election cycle.

 

Barzun served as Ambassador to Sweden from August 2009 to late 2011, where he became known as a host of trendy art and music evenings. He returned to the U.S. to serve as National Finance Chair for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. 

 

Barzun has served on the boards of many non-profits with a focus on education (the Louisville Free Public Library Foundation, Louisville Public Media, and Teach Kentucky); public policy (the Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center, and The Greater Louisville Project) and interfaith relations (Center for Interfaith Relations).

 

He is married to Brooke Brown Barzun, with whom he has three children, Jacques Barzun II, Eleanor Barzun, and Charles Barzun.

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography (State Department)

A Behind the Scenes Look With Ambassador Matthew Barzun (YouTube video)

Matthew Barzun: Profile of the New American Ambassador to Britain (by Alex Spillius, The Telegraph)

Written Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf)

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