Ambassador to the Court of St. James 1969 – 1974
Walter Hubert Annenberg is praised as one of the world’s greatest philanthropists, having contributed millions of dollars to hundreds of causes. Fabulously wealthy and unashamedly self-indulgent, Annenberg still maintains a sincere and genuine attachment to the common man.
Annenberg earned a business degree from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania in 1927.
- Entered the family publishing concern, Triangle Publications, whose titles included Daily Racing Form and the Philadelphia Inquirer, in 1927.
- Inherited Triangle Publications in 1942 on the death of his father, Moses Annenberg.
- Started Seventeen magazine in 1944.
- Served as commander in the U.S Naval Reserve from 1950 until 1966.
- Started TV Guide in 1953.
- Sold the newspapers Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News for fifty five million dollars in 1969.
- Appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James by President Richard Nixon in 1969. Left post in 1974.
- Sold Triangle Publications for 3.2 billion dollars in 1988.
Ambassador to the Court of St James’s
In 1987 Annenberg told Fortune magazine that ” Adversity either inspires you or destroys you.” His words might well characterize his entire mission from nomination to resignation.
President Nixon nominated Annenberg, a close personal friend, as Ambassador to the Court of St. James in 1969. Annenberg at first declined, believing that his lack of diplomatic experience would be a liability to the new administration, but eventually surrendered under the onslaught of Nixon’s persistence. However, even though the Senate approved Annenberg’s nomination, the ratification hearing was tortuous. Annenberg’s father’s conviction for tax evasion and his own earlier indictment on the same charges were raised in an attempt to cast doubt on Annenberg’s character and suitability for such a prestigious mission.
In Great Britain, too, Annenberg was portrayed as a brash and vulgar businessman with little or no grasp of either foreign affairs or diplomatic subtlety. It was openly said that Annenberg’s only qualification for the post was his money and privately rumoured that he had bought the ambassadorship. The new ambassador even managed to alienate the normally pro-American British press when, in one of his first public speeches in London, he strongly criticized those of his fellow citizens who had been demonstrating against the Vietnam War at home and abroad.
After a few months, however, Annenberg adjusted to his new role as head of an Embassy staff numbering some six hundred people. He presided over three meetings each month but, conscious of his own inexperience in foreign affairs, relied on senior members of staff for briefings on important issues. Annenberg may have lacked diplomatic experience but he certainly knew his way around the world of commerce and helped facilitate several transatlantic business deals. In a gesture of goodwill towards Great Britain, Annenberg loaned thirty-two paintings from his own private collection to the Tate Gallery in London. He also financed the installation of a swimming pool at Chequers, the country residence of British Prime Ministers.
Annenberg and HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother became great friends during his time in Great Britain, and by the end of his mission he had almost endeared himself to the rest of the British as well. His personal experience as Ambassador to the Court of St. James notwithstanding, Annenberg remained a good and generous friend to Great Britain for many years to come.
- Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 13th, 1908.
- Married (1) Veronica Dunkelman. One child (2) Leonore Cohn in 1951 .Two children.
Following his return to the United States of America in 1974 Annenberg established the Moses Louis Annenberg Foundation and endowed the Annenberg School of Communications at both the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California. Annenberg’s philanthropy was rewarded with the Presidential Gold Medal for Humanitarianism in 1986 and the George Foster Peabody Award in 1989. On May 12th, 1986 President Ronald Reagan presented Annenberg with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The citation read:
“Following a brilliant career in publishing and pioneering the use of television for educational purposes, Walter H. Annenberg was in 1969 appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James, where he served with extraordinary diligence, bringing the government and the people of the United States of America and Great Britain closer together. Since returning to private life, Walter Annenberg has devoted himself to the development of higher education and has provided support to countless institutions. Today our nation repays his lifetime of achievement with its gratitude.”
Annenberg was awarded the French Legion d’Honneur and was conferred an honorary Knighthood by Great Britain. Annenberg’s peers from the worlds of commerce and the media also recognized his life’s achievements. His many accolades and tributes include being named Publisher of the Year in 1984, the Ralph Lowell Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1983 and induction into the National Business Hall of Fame in 1994.
Annenberg has been one of the twentieth century’s greatest patrons of the arts. In 1991 his priceless and coveted collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings was promised to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Annenberg once stated that: “There are, in my opinion, only two great and complete museums in the world which cover all the arts…the Met and the Louvre in Paris.” This has not, however, prevented him from contributing to other artistic and cultural institutions. In Great Britain in November 1999 the Royal Academy of Arts in London announced that its front entrance was to be re-named the Annenberg Courtyard, in gratitude for a major donation – believed to have been a seven-figure sum – from the former ambassador. In December 2000 the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Collection at the newly refurbished Round Reading Room at the British Museum was opened to the public. In 1997 the Annenbergs became the first customers to take delivery of a Gulfstream V aircraft, the world’s first ultra long-range executive jet.
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