George A. Cohon, Civic Association Director and founder of McDonald’s in Canada and Russia, shared his inspirational story with an enthusiastic audience this week at the Sailfish Club in Palm Beach.
Mr. Cohon, one of the most successful businessmen of his generation, was among the first to break down the barriers to the former Soviet Union. With 14 years of persistence, good humor, and charity—a strategy he calls “Burger Diplomacy”--he brought McDonald’s Restaurants to a world where Western style capitalism simply did not exist.
Through coup attempts, meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev, the breaking up of the Soviet Union, and even a lively tennis session with the head of the KGB, Mr. Cohon launched the first McDonald’s in Moscow in 1990 serving 30,000 on opening day. The chain now boasts more than 270 restaurants in Russia with 25,000 employees. And, thanks to Mr. Cohon, Ronald McDonald Houses can now be found in the former Soviet Union.
But, George Cohon hasn’t stopped there. He and his son are currently involved in the effort to bring Cirque du Soleil to Russia.
The next "Meet the Directors" luncheon will feature Civic Association Director and former US Ambassador Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer organization and the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure (March 30).
R. Michael Brown