Since childhood, Tsunis and his family were active members of the Greek-American community. He attended Greek school, marched in the annual Greek Independence Day parades in Manhattan (Photo, centre), and was an active member of the Greek Orthodox parish of Agia Paraskevi.
US President Joe Biden has nominated Greek-American businessman George James Tsunis to serve as the next US Ambassador to Athens, according to a statement released by the White House today.
Tsunis is an attorney, developer, philanthropist and public policy advisor.
His appointment must be approved by the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, which has the power of advice and consent, after confirmation hearings. Depending on the timeframe of confirmation – there is a backlog in the approval of appointments – Tsunis may be able to assume his duties early next year.
The White House announcement comes days before the start of a new round of the US-Greece Strategic Dialogue in Washington and ahead of the signing of the revision and five-year extension (with a prospective indefinite extension) of the Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement (MDCA).
Tsunis has enormous experience in the tourism sector – which is considered Greece’s heavy industry – as he is the founder and CEO of Chartwell Hotels.
«Mr. Tsunis’ Chartwell Hotels is an innovative company that owns, develops and manages Hilton, Marriott and InterContinental Hotels Group franchises across the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states. Under Mr. Tsunis’ leadership, Chartwell Hotels enjoyed tremendous growth since its founding in 2005,” the company’s website states.
“Mr. Tsunis served as an advisor to the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, where he furthered the Committee’s legislative role of overseeing a diverse group of issues, including but not limited to, banking, insurance, financial markets, securities, housing, urban development and mass transit, international trade and finance, and economic policy.”
He has also served as the director of Signature Bank and of Arbor Realty (both are listed companies).
In those and other positions Tsunis has developed high-level contacts in the New York investment community, which the Greek government is courting.
Tsunis is a native New Yorker and has long been active in the Greek-American community, which is concerned with issues pertaining to Greece.
He is the son of first-generation immigrants from Greece, James and Eleni Tsunis.
He received his BA from NYU in 1989 and JD from Saint John’s University Law School in 1992. He was a practicing Attorney at the Long Island law firm Rivkin Radler LLP.
Close ties with Democratic Party
In 2013, Tsunis was Ambassador to Norway by US President Barack Obama, but the nomination became mired in Senate politics and Tsunis withdrew from the process after it was torpedoed by the Norwegian-American community, mainly in Minnesota, which saw it as a political appointment and claimed he lacked the qualifications, and by several prominent Democrats, according to an NPR report at the time.
In the hearings, Tsunis outlined his background and thanked his parents “who immigrated to this country of opportunity and meritocracy, seeking to build a better life for their family.”
“My parents sacrificed a lot to give my two sisters and me the opportunities they never had. So it is with gratitude that I introduce my mother Eleni, who had the foresight and determination to ensure that my sisters and I received a sound education and a reservoir of love,” he said.
Tsunis has a longstanding relationship with the US President Joe Biden as in 2012 he headed the “Greek-Americans for Obama-Biden” and was a major contributor to the campaign.
He is also well acquainted with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and enjoys the full support of Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, a staunch supporter of Greece, with whom he has a close friendship.
A son of the Greek-American community
Since childhood, Tsunis and his family were active members of the Greek-American community. He attended Greek school, marched in the annual Greek Independence Day parades in Manhattan, and was an active member of the Greek Orthodox parish of Agia Paraskevi.
He is a member of the church’s archdiocesan council, Faith and Leadership 100 (a group of big donors and individuals with distinguished service to the church), and of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.
Former archbishop Demtetrios bestowed on him the church’s highest honour, the Medal of Saint Paul.
Active in Greek-American and Cypriot-American lobbying efforts, Tsunis has also been awarded by “Justice for Cyprus”, the Federation of Cypriot-American Organisations (the prize was bestowed on him by the late president of Cyprus Dimitris Christophias), the American Jewish Committee (Athens-Wishner Prize), and the Hellenic American Leadership Council.