Friday, June 1, 2007

Graduates: Mark Cohon

Published in The Village Post. [June 2007]

Set to tackle CFL
Gridiron gadfly now top football boss

Report Card
Student: Mark Cohon
Graduated: Upper Canada College, 1985
Best Subjects: Economics and History
Worst Subject: Calculus
Current Job: CFL Commissioner

When graduating from university, conventional wisdom dictates that you get a lucrative job. Mark Cohon, current commissioner of the CFL and chair of the Ontario Science Centre, is not a man of convention. Instead, he organized a charity that took 30 Canadian and Soviet students to the pristine peaks of the Arctic and Siberia.

It is this type of bravado that has come to typify Cohon. Mark is the son of McDonald's of Canada founder George Cohon.

As a student at UCC, Cohon described himself as a well-rounded student who was active in the community.

"I was the captain of the football team and was on the board of stewards. I was also a B average student," he jokes.

Although he enjoyed his time at UCC, he prefers to take his lessons from the school of life. Right after graduation, Cohon partnered with Dr. Joe McGinness. The two would form the Toronto-based charity Youth Challenge International, which led the expedition to the frozen Arctic.

"I learned so much more from that experience about leadership, business, media relations than I would have if I had taken a job straight out of college," Cohon reflects.

This experience came in handy when in 1994, he ran into NBA commissioner David Stern while waiting for a plane in Tokyo's Narita Airport. This chance meeting led to Cohon joining the NBA as head of international marketing and head of the NBA's business development branch.

Cohon has also had successful stints leading companies like Petopia and Audience View but always seems to yearn for the next challenge.

Today, he is busier than ever. Cohon now holds the keys to two of Canada's most prestigious institutions: the Ontario Science Centre and the CFL.

"The Ontario Science Centre is the most visited cultural attraction in Canada, and we have raised about $47 million dollars," Cohon explains. "So far, we've transformed about 30 percent of the place, and we want to create an institution that teaches innovation and creates innovators."

While Cohon is clearly enthused about the endless possibilities that come with being the chair of the Ontario Science Centre, he is also excited about becoming the new commissioner of the CFL.

"I feel fortunate to be a part of the CFL because I love sports and I love the game," Cohon says. He is especially excited about this year's championship Grey Cup, which lands in Cohon's hometown on November 25, 2007.

While still a young man and a recent honouree of Coldwell Partners' Top 40 Under 40, Cohon offers this advice: "Have fun in what you do and always stay principled."

No comments: