As a major fundraiser for President Obama, Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour has been rumored to be in contention for a plum ambassadorship in Great Britain. But observers are speculating that the money woes of her longtime boyfriend, Houston-raised businessman Shelby Bryan, could derail her bid.
The Telegraph in London reports that Bryan has owed the U.S. government more than $1.2 million in back taxes, along with about $20,000 in overdue property taxes in Harris County. He owns a three-bedroom apartment in The Huntingdon valued at $720,000.
"I've paid Harris County so much money in so many taxes, and that's the only time it went awry."
Bryan has thus far paid back the federal government $400,000 and Harris County officials all delinquent property taxes.
In an interview with the newspaper, Bryan blamed a stockholding arrangement that was previously used as a loophole by investors to delay paying tax, before it was banned by U.S. authorities in 1997. "I had a thing that you will never want to happen in your life," he said.
He added that the IRS was "very accommodating" in helping him set up a payment schedule. Asked why he had not cleared the entire tax bill, Bryan said, "I would have loved to have done that — if I had the cash I could have."
He blamed the property tax snafu on faulty accountants. "I've paid Harris County so much money in so many taxes, and that's the only time it went awry," he said. "I mean it was my fault, you know people in the office weren't doing their job — but it was kind of an exceptional situation."
Though Bryan, 66, spends most of his time in New York, he has deep Texas roots as a direct descendent of Stephen F. Austin's father, Moses Austin, and continues to call Houston home.
He and Wintour, 63, have been a couple for 13 years and visit Houston regularly. Over the Christmas holidays, she was spotted at Central Market in the vitamin supplement aisle.
Wintour raised $500,000 for Obama in the most recent presidential campaign. At a $35,000-a-plate fundraising dinner in August, the president thanked "Anna and Shelby for being such extraordinary hosts," The Telegraph reports.
If nominated for ambassador, Wintour must be approved by the U.S. Senate, which has a history of scrutinizing the tax histories of nominees and their partners.
Last month, in a separate interview, Bryan told The Telegraph that Wintour would make a great ambassador and was being unfairly maligned.
"It’s a little bit of male chauvinism,” Bryan said about reports dismissing her capabilities as an ambassador. “It’s not just Anna — I see powerful women who really get slammed for being too forthright, or running their business in a very determined way."