×

Obama Nominates HBO Exec James Costos as Ambassador to Spain

Administration prepares to unveil a number of selections for highly sought diplomatic posts

President Obama nominated HBO executive James Costos as the next U.S. ambassador to Spain, along with a number of other prominent Los Angeles figures to fill prized diplomatic posts.

John Emerson, president of Capital Group Private Client Services and former chairman of the Los Angeles Music Center, was nominated ambassador to Germany. Rufus Gifford, a former producer and California fundraising consultant who was finance director of Obama’s reelection campaign, was nominated ambassador to Denmark. Their nominations have been anticipated for months.

Costos is the vice president of global licensing and retail, consumer marketing for HBO. He and his partner, designer Michael Smith, raised at least $500,000 for Obama’s reelection campaign in the 2012 cycle. In June 2011, they hosted First Lady Michelle Obama at their home for a fundraiser for her husband’s reelection campaign. In 2009, Smith was selected by the first lady to redecorate the residential quarters of the White House, and he later designed a makeover of the Oval Office.

All face confirmation in the Senate.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called Costos a “true citizen of the world” with “incredible global business experience” and a “commitment to community, philanthropy, human rights and democracy.” Griffin, who last year called for Obama to include LGBT figures for important diplomatic posts, also praised Obama’s nomination of Gifford and Daniel Baer, selected last week to serve as ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Many who raised money for Obama’s campaign have been interested in diplomatic posts, but the president is expected to fill only about 30 slots with non-career diplomats. The practice of selecting such political appointees — often figures who have raised substantial sums during the most recent campaign — has long been the source of criticism from career foreign service officers, even when they are for places that are not hotspots.

Nevertheless, non-career appointees have argued that they bring a fresh perspective to the job, often at a fraction of their private sector salary, and have access to the president and his top advisers that bureaucratic nominees do not.

Costos’ nomination has been buzzed about for weeks in the Spanish press. Before he was tapped to lead HBO’s licensing and marketing division in 2006, he had his own licensing agency and, before that, was a senior executive at Revolution Studios. Although his background is not in diplomacy, a trade issue that is of particular importance to the entertainment industry is rampant online piracy in the country. Spain was not included in a recent report from the U.S. Trade Representatives on the countries with the worst track records for fighting piracy, but copyright groups have been pressing the country to take greater measures.

Still to come is the nominee for one of the most highly prized assignments, that of ambassador to France. The current ambassador, Charles Rivkin, the former CEO of Wild Brain Media and the Jim Henson Co., is expected to step down soon. Marc Lasry, CEO of Avenue Capital Group, was expected to fill the post, but he dropped out of the running in April.

More Biz

  • The dark Manhatten skyline, seen from

    StubHub Refunds $500,000 to Customers Shut Out by New York Blackout

    Saturday’s blackout in New York had an outsized effect on the city’s nightlife, with Madison Square Garden and the entire Broadway district seeing multiple shows cancelled due to the the power outage. As a result, StubHub has refunded more than $500,000 worth of tickets for cancelled events. According to a statement from the company, the StubHub [...]

  • Weapons Cache

    D.A. Files 64 Charges in Bel-Air Weapons Stockpile Case

    The L.A. County District Attorney’s office has filed 64 counts against Girard Saenz, the man who allegedly kept a stockpile of more than 1,000 weapons at a Bel-Air home linked to the Getty family. Saenz is accused of illegal possession of assault weapons, transferring handguns without a dealer license, possession of short-barreled shotguns, and possession [...]

  • 9-1-1: Angela Bassett in the series

    Fox Sees Primetime, Sports Ad Gains As TV Upfront Wraps

    Fox Corporation is the latest to benefit from stronger-than-expected trends in TV ad spending, as the company notched strong gains in advertising commitments for its next cycle of programming – its first since selling off a large chunk of its media assets to Walt Disney. Ad demand was stronger than many executives anticipated, according to [...]

  • BMI Promotes David Levin to Senior

    BMI Promotes David Levin to Senior VP of Licensing

    BMI today announced that David Levin has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Licensing, effective immediately. In his newly expanded role, Levin is responsible for all of BMI’s domestic licensing and revenue generation, encompassing radio, television, digital media, cable, satellite and general licensing.  Levin, who will oversee teams in New York and Nashville, reports [...]

  • Warner Music Group Logo

    Warner Music Acquires Musical Theater Indie First Night Records

    Warner Music Group has acquired First Night Record, an independent record label for West End and Broadway musical theatre cast recordings. The company will be overseen by WMG’s Arts Music Division, led by President Kevin Gore. First Night co-founder John Craig will join the Arts Music team under a multi-year consulting agreement to identify and record musical theatre productions in [...]

  • Woodstock 50 to Hold Open House

    Woodstock 50 to Hold Open House for Local Residents Before Permit Review Tuesday

    If nothing else, the producers of Woodstock 50 are persistent. After two permit applications to hold the troubled festival at the Vernon Downs racetrack in Upstate New York were rejected by the town of Vernon codes office, the producers and venue owner Jeffrey Gural today invited the local community “to embrace the Festival’s spirit of [...]

  • ILM Star Wars The Force Awakens

    ILM to Open Latest Effects Facility in Sydney, Australia

    Sydney, Australia, is to be home to Industrial Light & Magic’s fifth production hub. The Disney-owned special effects company currently has facilities in San Francisco, Vancouver, London and Singapore. The decision to open the Sydney outpost was announced Monday local time by executive creative director and head of ILM Rob Bredow, ILM executive Luke Hetherington, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content