March 29, 2007
Cohon takes over CFLYouthful alternative for commish
By ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media
He has worked as a zoo keeper, as an intern in the Toronto Sun newsroom and for both the NBA and MLB.
Sounds like new CFL commissioner Mark Cohon has most of the bases covered.
The 41-year-old Toronto-raised son of McDonald's Canada founder George Cohon yesterday was named the league's 12th full-time commissioner.
"The CFL is one of Canada's great, great brands and a great game," said Cohon, who succeeds the turbulent four-year reign of Tom Wright.
"Everything I have done in my career helped to prepare me for this -- working the Major League Baseball and a divergent group of owners and working with David Stern in the NBA learning how to build a sports brand and connect with fans."
Cohon's marketing background clearly appealed to the notoriously demanding CFL board of governors, which has been reluctant to provide much autonomy to the job.
"(Cohon) was able to convince each of (the board of directors) that he's the guy who can get the league where it needs to go," said Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young, a member of the league's search committe. "We are now committed to making him as successful as we can."
To help in that regard, the new boss has been rewarded with rare job security in the form of a five-year contract.
"(The mandate) allows me to think about the future and not the renewal," Cohon said. "The unanimous approval of the board is a great indicator of the platform I have."
Appealing to a younger crowd, enforcing the league's new salary cap and investigating expansion possibilities are among Cohon's early priorities.
Providing a fresh face to a league always looking to polish its image is also part of the package.
"He oozes presence," Argos president Keith Pelley said. "He's smart, intelligent ... a guy who when he walks into a room will command respect in a very short time."
Cohon is well aware of the trials his predecessors have faced. But he also believes he can provide the leadership the league has struggled to secure in the past.
"I feel as I get into it, I can really make a difference," Cohon said. "I really think I can help this league grow."
MEET THE BOSS
- Born in Chicago, moved to Toronto at age 2.
- Son of McDonald's Canada founder George Cohon.
- Graduated from Northwestern Law School before working in marketing for both MLB and the NBA.
- As a high schooler, was a tight end and receiver at Toronto's Upper Canada College.
- Worked as a zookeeper in his youth and is currently the chairman of the Ontario Science Centre.
- Currently resides in Toronto with his wife Suzanne and young daughter, Parker.