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Vice-Chairman, Cirque du Soleil Russia

Alumni Gazette Spring 2012

craig cohon
Vice-Chairman, Cirque du Soleil Russia

Craig Cohon, BA’85, knows a few things about doing business in Russia.

In 1990, Cohon brought Coca-Cola to the Soviet Union, one year before its collapse. At the age of 27, he was the company’s first employee there. In an effort to fully immerse himself in the Russian culture, Cohon learned the language within six months of arriving in Moscow, and took on factory and restaurant jobs.

He went on to hold several executive positions with Coca-Cola, including head of marketing in Northern Europe and the former Soviet Union, brand director worldwide, director of learning strategy and deputy division president for the Northwest Europe division. In 1993, Cohon received an honorary doctorate of economics from Moscow International University.

In 2008 Cirque du Soleil came calling - would Cohon help bring their shows to Russia, too?

The call was answered, and Russia is now the fastest-growing market for Cirque in the last decade. To date, there have been four Cirque shows in Russia, selling more than 800,000 tickets. Cohon is Cirque du Soleil Rus’ vice-chairman.

In February 2012, Cirque’s Zarkana premiered at the Kremlin Palace Theatre, one of the largest stages in the world. The $57-million show, scored by Elton John, marks the first time the venue has been rented to a non-Russian organization for more than a week. More than 350,000 people saw Zarkana over its 10-week run.

Between Coca-Cola and Cirque, Cohon spent eight years owning and running an international development strategic advisory firm, Globalegacy International, building businesses in India and Africa, including a modern clean energy enterprise with BP for rural Indian women.

Cohon’s legacy at Western includes co-founding TV Western and the Charity Ball, which he got Western alumnus Alan Thicke, BA’67, to host it in the height of his Growing Pains stardom. He also helped create Western’s mascot, J.W. In 2003, Western honoured Cohon with a young alumni award.

Read the full profile on Cohon in the Spring 2012 issue of the Alumni Gazette:

Read the complete story: Alumni Gazette Spring 2012

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