James Costos

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James Costos
Ambassador costos official-301x376.JPG
United States Ambassador to Spain and Andorra
In office
September 24, 2013 – January 18, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byAlan Solomont
Succeeded byDuke Buchan
Personal details
Born1963 (age 56–57)
Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Domestic partnerMichael Smith
Alma materUniversity of Massachusetts Lowell

James Costos (born 1963) is an American diplomat who was the United States Ambassador to Spain and Andorra from 2013 to 2017.[1] He was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate on August 1, 2013.

Early life and education[edit]

Costos was born in 1963 and grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts. He is a second-generation Greek-American, whose father served as a U.S. Marine and was stationed at Camp David during the Truman administration.[2] He is the first in his family to graduate college. He earned a degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 1985.[3]


Costos was a corporate leader and executive in the international retail and international entertainment industries, most notably at HBO and Tod's. His responsibilities included global positioning, external relations, marketing and communications. He is an active supporter of humanitarian organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and an advocate for cultural institutions and cultural diplomacy. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States, the country's largest animal protection organization.[3]

President Obama nominated Costos for the position of U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Principality of Andorra on June 14, 2013.[4] The U.S. Senate voted to confirm the nomination on August 1, 2013, and Costos was sworn in on August 22, 2013.[3][5] He presented his credentials to the Spanish government in Madrid on September 24, 2013.[5]

His business career has made him expert on the issue of the enforcement of laws against digital piracy, a particular concern of U.S. businesses with respect to Spain. His initial focus, he said, was on issues of international security and thanking Spain for allowing the U.S. to deploy part of its anti-missile shield defense and for hosting U.S. military bases. In September 2013, Costos visited the bases at Rota and Morón to mark the 60th anniversary of the agreement under which they were established.[6]

In October 2013 the Spanish government summoned him to address allegations that the National Security Agency had recently collected data on 60 million telephone calls in Spain.[7]

While visiting California in 2014, President Obama and his wife Michelle stayed at the Costos-Smith home.[8]

In June 2015, he joined other gay U.S. ambassadors in a statement supporting international trade agreements, linking open markets to the development of open societies that provide civil rights protections.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Costos lives in Los Angeles, California, with his partner Michael S. Smith, the official interior designer for the Obama White House. He is a vegetarian, but imposed no dietary restrictions on embassy functions. On the subject of LGBT rights, Costos has said "I am not an activist. I broadly support human rights for straight, gay, women’s issues. And I just happen to be gay.... This doesn't define me as a person, but it is part of who I am. It's like being a vegetarian: it's one more facet of James Costos."[6] He said he and Smith had been welcomed in Spain "with great accommodation" and that because Spain already provides LGBT civil rights, the role he and Smith played was a symbolic for those who still suffered from a lack of enforcement in support of their rights: "What we can do through our messaging is give a sense of hope."[10]

After leaving the White House in January 2017, the Obamas departed Washington for Palm Springs, where they were guests in the Costos-Smith home for several days before traveling to the British Virgin Islands to stay at the home of Sir Richard Branson.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Revesz, Rachel (January 20, 2017). "Donald Trump has fired all foreign US ambassadors with nobody to replace them". The Independent. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  2. ^ Dominguez, Montserrat (April 7, 2015). "U.S. Ambassador To Spain: If She Runs, 'Hillary Clinton Will Be The Next U.S. President'". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "James Costos". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Daunt, Tina (June 14, 2013). "Obama to Name HBO Executive as Ambassador to Spain". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "James Costos (1963–)". U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Pérez, Bernardo (September 26, 2013). "I'm not tracking anti-Americanism; I'm here to build on the relationship". El País. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  7. ^ Minder, Raphael (October 28, 2013). "Spain Summons American Ambassador on New Reports of N.S.A. Spying". New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  8. ^ Landler, Mark (June 14, 2014). "At Commencement, Obama Mocks Lawmakers Who Deny Climate Change". New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  9. ^ Somanader, Tanya (June 9, 2015). "America's LGBT Ambassadors: Global Trade Will Lift Up LGBT Lives" (Press release). The White House Briefing Room. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  10. ^ Lavers, Michael K. (March 25, 2015). "Gay U.S. ambassadors take part in Newseum panel". Washington Blade. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  11. ^ Dubin, Alesandra. "Obamas Depart Palm Springs for Richard Branson's Private Island in the Caribbean". Retrieved 10 February 2017.

Additional sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Alan Solomont
United States Ambassador to Spain
Succeeded by
Duke Buchan
United States Ambassador to Andorra