Charles Rivkin

Charles Hammerman Rivkin (born April 6, 1962) is an American media executive and former United States diplomat who is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Motion Picture Association (MPA).[1]

Charles Rivkin
Chairman of the Motion Picture Association
Assumed office
December 6, 2017
Preceded byChris Dodd
Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture Association
Assumed office
September 5, 2017
Preceded byChris Dodd
Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs
In office
February 13, 2014  January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJose Fernandez
Succeeded byPatricia M. Haslach (Acting)
United States Ambassador to France
In office
October 2, 2009  November 20, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byCraig Stapleton
Succeeded byJane Hartley
2nd United States Ambassador to Monaco
In office
October 2, 2009  November 20, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byCraig Stapleton
Succeeded byJane Hartley
Personal details
Charles Hammerman Rivkin

(1962-04-06) April 6, 1962
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Susan Tolson
EducationYale University (BA)
Harvard University (MBA)

Rivkin served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State from 2014 to 2017. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 12, 2014, Rivkin assumed office the following day, and was sworn in publicly by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on April 15, 2014.[2] Rivkin's confirmation marked the first time a U.S. ambassador and former CEO ever led the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. State Department.

Prior to his appointment, Rivkin served for more than four years as the United States Ambassador to France and Monaco where he led America's first and one of its largest diplomatic missions, which has six constituent posts throughout France and represents over 50 U.S. government agencies and sections. In this capacity, Rivkin also served as the U.S. Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe.

Early life and education

Of Eastern European Jewish heritage,[3] Rivkin is one of four children of Enid Hammerman and William R. Rivkin, who was the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg under President John F. Kennedy and United States Ambassador to Senegal and Gambia under President Lyndon B. Johnson.[4] [5] His mother's grandfather founded J K Industries, a large children's clothing manufacturer, greatly expanded by Rivkin's grandfather. In 1967, Rivkin's father died when he was just 5 years old. His widowed mother remarried Chicago obstetrician Dr. John S. Long in 1971.[5][6][7]

Rivkin earned a B.A. from Yale University in 1984. He graduated with distinction in political science and international relations. At Yale, he was a member of two Yale a cappella groups: the underclassmen Spizzwinks and the all-senior Whiffenpoofs. He then earned an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1988.[8]

Business career

Prior to entering government service, Rivkin worked in the media sector for over 20 years, serving as president and CEO of award-winning entertainment companies such as The Jim Henson Company, home of the "Muppets". He also served as CEO of Wildbrain where he won a BAFTA Award as Executive Producer of the hit TV series Yo Gabba Gabba!.[9] Rivkin helped engineer the sale of The Jim Henson Company to EM.TV in 2000 for nearly $1 billion[10] and was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company.[11]

Political activities

Rivkin served as an at-large California delegate for Senator John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and for Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[12] Rivkin was the California finance co-chair for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign[8] and one of his top fund raisers.[13][14][15][16][17]

Ambassador to France and Monaco

Rivkin assumed the role of Ambassador in August 2009.[18] Ambassador Rivkin's service in France came at one of the bilateral relationship's strongest moments in recent history.[19][20] To honor the legacy of Franco-American friendship and to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Allied invasion of mainland Europe during World War II, Rivkin took part in a mass parachute jump over the coast of Normandy on June 3, 2012.[21][22] During his 12,000-foot jump, Rivkin was accompanied by members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team.[23] An estimated crowd of 25,000 watched Rivkin land in a field near Sainte-Mère-Église amidst heavy winds, as he became the first US Ambassador to France to jump from a plane in honor of the troops who fought on D-Day.[24] In support of the U.S. Navy, Rivkin became the first US Ambassador to take off and land on a Navy aircraft carrier in an F-18 Super Hornet when he participated in a training exercise with naval aviators on the USS Eisenhower in March 2013.[25]

According to the Department of State Office of Inspector General's report in May 2012, Rivkin placed new emphasis on support for US exports of goods and services into France.[26] The report called Rivkin a "dynamic and visionary noncareer Ambassador", and credited him with expanding the U.S. Embassy's public diplomacy activities, particularly through his use of social media and his appearances on French national television.[26] Rivkin introduced social media to Embassy Paris, establishing its first ever Facebook[27] and Twitter accounts.[28][29]

As ambassador, Rivkin made youth outreach one of his key priorities and connected the embassy to the next generation of leaders throughout France, including in disadvantaged communities in the banlieues outside larger cities.[30] Rivkin organized a series of seminars for French youth, inviting them to meet with prominent American government officials, actors and musicians. Beginning with actor Samuel L. Jackson's April 2010 visit with students in Bondy, an economically depressed Parisian suburb, Rivkin set up seminars and hosted events with Stephen Colbert, Sylvester Stallone, Woody Allen, Jodie Foster, of the Black Eyed Peas, Robert Zemeckis, Allen Stone, Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and many others.[26][31] "Much of the embassy's outreach is meant to dispel 'mistruths' about the United States," Rivkin said in an interview, adding, "It's easier to hate something you don't understand."[31] In January 2012, Rivkin broadened his outreach efforts by creating the Washburne Award for Innovation in Diversity, recognizing one French and one American company for their best practices in fostering diversity in hiring practices.[32]

In January 2013, Rivkin commented on the pending parole and release of Lebanese militant Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, who was sentenced to life in prison for complicity in the murders of an American and an Israeli diplomat: "I am disappointed by the decision today...Life imprisonment was the appropriate sentence for Mr Abdallah's serious crimes, and there is legitimate concern that Mr. Abdallah would continue to represent a danger to the international community if he were allowed to go free."[33]

On July 16, 2013, French President François Hollande awarded Ambassador Rivkin the rank of Commander in the Légion d'honneur at the Elysée Palace. Rivkin is the first US Ambassador in half a century to receive the decoration from a sitting French president.[34] Rivkin's tenure as ambassador to France received highly favorable reviews by both State Department audits and from his embassy's employees.[14] Rivkin left office in November 2013 following his nomination to become an Assistant Secretary of the State Department.[35]

Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs

As Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, Rivkin led a bureau at the U.S. State Department that is responsible for managing trade negotiations, investment treaties, economic sanctions, transportation affairs, telecommunications policy, international finance and development related issues, as well as intellectual property right protection. The Bureau is also the Department of State's primary link to the private sector through its Office of Commercial and Business Affairs, which supports U.S. business interests internationally and works to create U.S. jobs by facilitating foreign investment in the United States.[36] In addition, Rivkin provided guidance to the Department of State's 1,600 economic officers around the world and to the U.S. Mission to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In his first year as Assistant Secretary, Rivkin led multiple economic policy dialogues on behalf of the State Department, including discussions with Colombia,[37] the United Arab Emirates,[38] and Turkey.[39]

In June 2014, Rivkin co-chaired a meeting of the U.S.–Israel Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG) with the ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, in Tel Aviv; held bilateral meetings with Israeli Government officials in Jerusalem; and bilateral meetings with Palestinian businessmen and officials of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.[40] In May 2016 in Ramallah, Rivkin led the first U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogue since 2004 in an effort to support private sector growth in the Palestinian economy.[41]

In October 2015 and December 2016, Rivkin co-chaired the first and second annual U.S.-Qatar Economic and Investment Dialogues.[42]

In March 2016, Rivkin and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx signed an arrangement with Cuban government officials to reestablish regularly scheduled flights between the United States and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years.[43]

In February 2015, Rivkin received la Grande Médaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris, the city of Paris' highest honor, from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. In December 2016, Rivkin received the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the U.S. Department of the Navy's highest civilian recognition, from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

Motion Picture Association

As announced on April 28, 2017, Rivkin succeeded Chris Dodd as CEO of the Motion Picture Association (then the Motion Picture Association of America), effective September 5, 2017, and as chairman, effective December 6, 2017. Rivkin's priorities include defending intellectual property and bolstering the MPA's content protection efforts, incentivizing the production of new films and television shows to spur job creation and growth, and expanding U.S. studios' access to international markets, particularly China.[44] In January 2019 Rivkin was directly responsible for Netflix becoming the first streaming service to join the MPA,[45][46] helping to further the growth and evolution of the trade association.[47][48] He also aims to elevate the MPA's profile through improved branding and social media communications, as well as more high-profile events in Washington, D.C.[1] Rivkin views the entertainment industry not just as an economic force but also as a projection of U.S. values and a form of soft power.[1]

Personal life

In 1990, Rivkin married Susan Tolson.[4] They live in Washington, D.C., and have two children, Elias and Lily.

His brother Robert S. Rivkin served as Deputy Mayor of the City of Chicago between July 20, 2017 and March 1, 2019 and also served as the 21st General Counsel of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) under President Barack Obama;[49][50] his brother's wife, Cindy S. Moelis, was appointed director of the Presidential Commission on White House Fellows.[50] His aunt, Joanne H. Alter, was the first woman to be elected to a countywide office in the metropolitan Chicago area.[51] His cousin, Jonathan Alter, is an award-winning author and NBC correspondent; and his cousin Jamie Alter Lynton, the wife of former Sony Executive Michael Lynton, is one of California's biggest political fundraisers.

His family has presented the "Rivkin Award" at the United States Department of State since 1968 as a way to honor intellectual courage and constructive dissent in the American Foreign Service.[12] The award was created in part with the help of Charles Rivkin's godfather, Hubert H. Humphrey, after the elder Rivkin's death at 47, in 1967.[8]


  1. Barnes, Brooks (April 1, 2018). "Hollywood's Ambassador, Schooled in Diplomacy and the Muppets". New York Times.
  2. "Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony for Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin". U.S. Department of State.
  3. LA Times: "U.S. envoy in France is making the most of his opportunity" By Devorah Lauter April 24, 2010 | "But the 48-year-old Yale alum and Harvard Business School graduate with Russian Jewish roots shook hands with everyone in the room, and asked in fluent French about their various projects"
  4. "Ms. Tolson Wed To Charles Rivkin" Aug. 5, 1990, The New York Times.
  5. Chicago Tribune: "Enid H. Long, 71 - Served on college board, medical relief missions" By James Janega January 29, 2002
  6. Chicago Tribune: "Dr. John Sterry Long, 1921-2013 - Rush obstetrician-gynecologist delivered more than 10,000 babies" By Patrick Svitek January 11, 2013 | Neal Ball, the committee's founder, met Dr. Long and his second wife, the late Enid Hammerman Rivkin Long
  7. "Robert Rivkin takes on challenge of Toyota inquest with Transportation Department". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Archived from the original on 2013-05-13. His great-grandfather founded J.K. Industries in Chicago and his grandfather, Sol Hammerman, grew it into one of the nation's largest children's clothing manufacturers.
  8. "New U.S. Envoy Takes Up Post" by Brian Knowlton, The New York Times, Aug. 16, 2009. Retrieved 8/16/09.
  9. "C21Media". C21Media.
  10. "Henson tab near $1 bil", Variety, 24 February 2000
  11. "Most Creative People 2009". Fast Company. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  12. announcement
  13. USA Today: "5 Top Bundlers for Barack Obama - All five have collected more than $500,000 in campaign donations from other people" August 22, 2008
  14. The Atlantic: "Being Good at Raising Money Doesn't Make You a Good Diplomat - Will foreign policy skills, rather than campaign fundraising, ever matter when it comes to political ambassador appointments?" by Nicholas Kralev March 19, 2013
  15. Chicago Magazine: "Key Obama campaign backers who were appointed ambassadors - Winners’ Row: A sample of bundlers for Obama who are now ambassadors posted abroad" By Carol Felsenthal February 1, 2010
  16. New York Times: "Obama Rewarded ’08 Fund-Raisers, Barring Some From Helping Now" By MARK LANDLER JULY 24, 2012
  17. Variety magazine: "Hollywood’s Diplomatic Intrigue - Industry figures see last chance for ambassadorship" by Ted Johnson March 2, 2013
  18. Knowlton, Brian (August 16, 2009). "New U.S. Envoy Takes Up Post". The New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2009.
  19. "Friendship on the menu at French-US dinner". euronews.
  20. "Interview: «Cooperation Has Reached an Unprecedented Level»", Les Echos, 26 March 2013.
  21. "US ambassador marks D-Day with Normandy parachute jump". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 2012-06-06.
  22. "U.S. Ambassador Charles Rivkin marks D-Day with a parachute jump" (Video). YouTube. Retrieved July 1, 2012.
  23. "U.S. ambassador to France joins paratroopers for 12,000ft skydive over Normandy to celebrate D-Day anniversary". The Daily Mail. June 4, 2012.
  24. "US ambassador in D-Day jump". The Connexion. June 4, 2012.
  25. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-02. Retrieved 2013-10-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. "Office of Inspector General's Report on Embassy Paris, May 2012" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-24. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
  27. "Embassy Paris Facebook page".
  28. "Embassy Paris Twitter account".
  29. "Ambassador Charles H. Rivkin's Twitter account".
  30. "How the U.S. Engages with French 'Banlieues'", Le Parisien, 26 January 2013.
  31. Sayare, Scott (Sep 22, 2010). "Feeling Slighted by France, and Respected by the U.S." The New York Times.
  32. "Un plan coordonné en faveur de l'innovation | Nos amis américains | Prix Washburne", Le Monde, 30 May 2013.
  33. Jewish Telegraph Agency: "France paroling Lebanese man involved in murders of Israeli, American" By Cnaan Liphshiz January 11, 2013
  34. "US Embassy France Internet page". 2013-07-26. Archived from the original on 2014-12-14.
  35. "Ambassador Charles Rivkin permanently departed post on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 following his nomination by President Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs". Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  36. "Charles H. Rivkin - Bio". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  37. "Department of State Public Schedule, February 28, 2014".
  38. "Sixth UAE-US Economic Policy Dialogue in Washington concludes". Gulf News.
  39. "Turkish officials meet American diplomats in D.C. to discuss economic partnership". Daily Sabah.
  40. San Diego Jewish World: "Amid tumult, Rivkin heads for Israel and P.A." 13 June 2014.
  41. "U.S, Palestine hold first Economic Dialogue since 2004". Zawya. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  42. "Qatar to continue its ambitious development drive: Al-Emadi". Gulf-Times. 2016-12-12. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  43. "U.S., Cuba sign civil aviation accord in Havana as Cuba's foreign trade minister visits Washington". Miami Herald. 16 February 2016.
  44. Faughnder, Ryan (September 2, 2017). "New MPAA chief Charles Rivkin aims to be a diplomat for Hollywood at an uncertain time". Los Angeles Times.
  45. "Netflix Becomes First Streamer to Join the Motion Picture Association of America". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  46. Kelly, Makena (2019-01-22). "Netflix becomes first streaming company to join the MPAA". The Verge. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  47. Williams, Trey (2019-01-22). "Netflix Joins Motion Picture Association of America". TheWrap. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  48. Johnson, Ted; Johnson, Ted (2019-01-24). "Charles Rivkin on Netflix Joining the MPAA — Will Amazon Be Next?". Variety. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  49. All Gov: "Ambassador to France: Who is Charles Rivkin? July 14, 2009
  50. Huffington Post: "All in the Family -- Husband, Wife, Brother all Make Obama's Team Rivkin's cousin" by Carol Felsenthal May 25, 2011
  51. Jensen, Trevor (November 11, 2008). "Joanne H. Alter: 1927 - 2008". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Craig Stapleton
United States Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
Jane Hartley
United States Ambassador to Monaco
Preceded by
Jose Fernandez
Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs
Succeeded by
Patricia M. Haslach
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Chris Dodd
Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture Association of America
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