Mark Cohon named CFL commissioner

Toronto businessman Mark Cohon, the son of McDonald's Canada founder George Cohon, has been picked as the Canadian Football League's 12th commissioner.

Toronto businessman Mark Cohon, the son of McDonald's Canada founder George Cohon, has been picked as the Canadian Football League's 12th commissioner.

Theleague's board of governors made the announcement at a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon, saying the five-year deal was decided in a unanimous vote.

Cohon takes over from Tom Wright, who told the league's board in July 2006 that he had decided not to seek a renewal of his contract.

"I'm so excited about this role: This is a great brand, a great game," said a beaming Cohon, whowill assume his duties as commissioner on April 17.

"I love the game. I played it in high school, I watch it on TV, I go to games and love interacting with the fans.

"The CFL is a great part of Canadian identity and I couldn't think of a better job than CFL commissioner."

Cohon brings 15 years of experience to the jobin sports marketing, business development, ticketing, sponsorship and television sales.

"He oozes presence, he's an impeccable dresser, he looks good, he's smart, he's intelligent, he's exactly what you want in your commissioner," Toronto Argonauts president andchief executive officerKeith Pelly told the Canadian Press. "He's young, vibrant passionate, it was a pretty good fit."

Among the challenges facing Cohon will be enforcing the CFL's new, $4.05-million salary cap, along with possible expansion to the Maritimes and a drug-testing policy for players.

Gene Dunn, chair of the CFL board, said Cohon has a great track record in sports and business development and brings the right experience, energy and perspective to the position.

Cohonis currentlychair of the Ontario Science Centre and a board member with the Toronto-based AudienceView Software Corp., a global software company for the sports, arts and entertainment industries.

Previously, he served as former director of corporate and game development with Major League Baseball and vice-president of business development with the National Basketball Association.

"I think about what I've done in my career and I really think it helped prepare me for this role," said Cohon, who said he has lived in "four or five countries and conducted business in 30 countries."

Dunn added the league was impressed with Cohon's proven ability to build brands and grow revenues.

"This combined with his determination and passion for sport will be a great asset to the CFL as we continue to look for new ways to enhance our game [and] grow our business."

Learned from working with Stern

Cohon said he wouldjump into the new job with his eyes wide open,saying he had learned fromworking with NBA commissioner David Stern. He described Stern as personable, smart and someone with a knack to build a brand.

"Building a brand is about living a marketing campaign," Cohon said. "It goes from getting kids to play [minor football] to engaging corporate Canada."

A graduate of Northwestern University law school in Chicago, Ill., Cohon also said the length of his contract will let him focus on the league instead of having to worrying about renewals to his contract.

Wright, who had a four-year tenure as commissioner, had come came under fire because of the ownership problems of the Ottawa Renegades. Theteam's owners, Bernie Glieberman and William Smith, eventually put the team up for sale and the CFL mothballed the franchise in April 2006.

In May 2005, the governors voted to give Wright a contract extension, despite reports that many owners weren't happy with his leadership and wished to move in another direction.

Wright was often praised for being a positive face for the league throughout his tenure, being approachable and fan friendly.

Corporate sponsorships and television ratings increased significantly under his watch. And prior to leaving office, he secured a five-year television agreement with cable sports network TSN worth $75 million.

Cohon takes up the reins from Dunn, who assumed the commissioner duties in Dec. 22, 2006.

Dunn said there would be a review of the league's constitution during Cohon's tenure, but added, "Mark is comfortable with the wording in the constitution that will allow him to do his job."