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Volume 22 No. 19
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Forty Under 40: Daniel Cohen

Photo: octagon

Daniel Cohen knows about perseverance and starting things from the ground up. He’s been doing that since he was a freshman at George Washington University.

Invited to walk on to the GWU baseball team, Cohen soon realized a Division I career was not in the books. He turned his interest to sports business.

Senior Vice President, Media Rights Consulting, Octagon

Age: 34

Born: Livingston, N.J.

Education: George Washington University, American Studies 

Family: Wife, Jenna

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Ordering a round of tequila and answering the phone while on the airplane.

Causes supported: ALS Association, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, DREAM (formerly Harlem RBI).

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Providing more opportunities for minorities and women.

Ideal day off: An early start carving up first tracks on fresh powder followed by a lively après-ski with my wife.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: While in Japan, upon executing a new agreement, a jar of sake filled with a fermenting coiled and fanged pit viper arrived at the table. I was instructed it was traditional Okinawan custom to drink a shot of habu to celebrate a new partnership. It did not taste like chicken.

“That’s what a failed collegiate baseball career can do for you. It wasn’t meant to be. I had to fill that void,” said Cohen, who now leads Octagon’s global media rights consulting division.

In 2003, he began contacting hedge fund manager Jeff Zients and diplomat Winston Lord, who were leading one of the groups seeking to bring the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C.

“I sent [Zients] an email every day for a couple of weeks. I ran out of things to say so I would send Snapple facts,” said Cohen, referring to the trivia facts on bottle caps, such as annual honey production by bees. “It fell on deaf ears. So I finally built up the courage to just wait for him in the lobby.”

That persistence resulted in an entry-level job and college work-study with the group and eventually a job with the Washington Nationals ownership group.

Cohen has since gravitated toward sports startup ventures, including ramping up Bloomberg’s sports data division from 2007 to 2014 and leading Octagon’s media rights division since 2017.

He said being part of or starting new business initiatives and persistence continue to be top lines in his career.

“I found for me that perseverance is key. Quite frankly, there is a lot — whether it’s personal or professional — in our life that are a lot of intangibles that you don’t control,” he said. “What you put in is what you do control. The energy, the effort and the hustle are all factors that contribute to an individual’s success.”