Greek-American businessman George James Tsounis has been nominated by US President Joe Biden for the position of US ambassador to Athens, according to a statement issued by the White House on Friday afternoon.
Tsounis’s candidacy must be approved following a hearing by the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by US Senator Robert Menendez.
If the obstacles of the delays in approving the appointments are overcome, it is estimated that George Tsounis will be able to take over the reins of the US diplomatic mission in Athens at the beginning of the new year.
Tsounis has extensive experience in the tourism industry, as he is the founder and executive director of the Chartwell Hotels group.
This company has a strong presence in all northeastern states and collaborates with important names in the field, such as Hilton, Marriott and Intercontinental.
He is considered a native of the Big Apple, the city in which he grew up and studied, starting at New York University and then obtaining a law degree from St. John’s University.
Immediately after his studies, he worked in the largest law firm in Long Island, while to this day he continues to live in the area with his spouse Olga and their three children.
Strong connections with the US business and political world
In 2013, under the administration of Barack Obama, his appointment as US ambassador to Norway was considered. However, this attempt ultimately failed. In the years that followed, Tsounis had the opportunity to take on a number of roles in the private and public sectors, gaining new experiences that are expected to strengthen his new candidacy.
In particular, his experience at the helm of Chartwell Hotels as well as taking over the management of Arbor Realty Trust and New York’s Signature Bank, two listed companies, has enabled him to develop significant contacts at the highest levels of the investment community of New York.
Equally important, however, are the political connections maintained by the 53-year-old expatriate in the US capital. This is, after all, a political appointment, given that George Tsounis is not a career diplomat.
In this light, it is worth noting the long-term relationship he maintains with President Biden, as in the 2012 election campaign he had served as president of the Greek-Americans for Obama-Biden.
In addition, he is well acquainted with US State Secretary Anthony Blinken and has the full support of Senator Robert Menendez, with whom he has developed a close friendship.
Despite being one of the main sponsors of the Democratic Party, the expatriate businessman keeps open the channels of communication in the Capitol with MPs and senators from the two major parties.
“Child” of the Greek community
A second-generation immigrant with parents from mountainous Nafpaktia, George Tsounis grew up in the Greek community of New York.
He attended the Greek school, participated in the Greek parade that takes place every year on March 25 on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and was an active member of the Community of Saint Paraskevi.
He maintained this close relationship with the Church and the Greek-American community throughout his career, as a member of the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Faith and Leadership 100, the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), and The Hellenic Initiative (THI).
In fact, the former Archbishop Dimitrios had presented Tsounis with the Medal of St. Paul, the highest recognition awarded by the Greek Orthodox Church in America.
In addition, Tsounis has received the Justice for Cyprus Award of the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations that had been awarded to him by former Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and the Athens-Wishner Award jointly awarded by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Hellenic-American Council Leadership (HALC).