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As owner, president and chief executive officer of Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation (CBRC), Charles S. Cohen has achieved an enviable national reputation for his exceptional business acumen, innovation and creativity at every turn. An entrepreneurial real estate executive in the truest sense, Mr. Cohen, one of the country’s legendary commercial real estate owners/developers with a portfolio of over 12 million square feet of prime properties located in New York, Texas, Florida and Southern California, is one of the rare breed of developers with a vision that is clearly and ultimately defined by design. Beyond his mastery of business transactions, he has brought his impeccable -- and innate -- taste and style to a wide range of high-profile projects, from office skyscrapers to corporate parks to his newest passion: Design Centers.
Perhaps the best illustration of this is Mr. Cohen’s remarkable revitalization of the D & D (Decoration & Design) Building in New York City, which has been universally hailed as an unequivocal triumph. In repositioning this once proud specialty building into a true showcase property, Mr. Cohen turned a seemingly outdated structure into the premier luxury home furnishings center in the country. He has done the same in three other parts of the country -- in Texas at the Decorative Center Houston, in Florida at the Design Center of the Americas (DCOTA) in Dania Beach, and on the West Coast at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, where perhaps his most spectacular ground-up development to date -- Caesar Pilli’s breathtaking Red Building -- represents the final phase of this award- winning 14-acre design and office campus.
While breathing new life into commercial properties, Mr. Cohen has essentially refined the role of the “re-developer”; his ability to reposition and maximize the potential of underutilized buildings has allowed him to carve a special niche within his industry. No better example of those talents was his remarkable transformation of the vacant 39-story, million-square-foot former Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield office building in Manhattan into a fully leased Class-A office tower housing the world headquarters of McCann Erickson, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and HypoVereinsbank. More recently, he has successfully repositioned and redeveloped the world-class Manhattan office building at 623 Fifth Avenue, formerly known as Swiss Bank Tower, into a dynamic multi-tenanted corporate center for elite financial firms and service providers, including Merrill Lynch, UBS Securities, and Cargill.
Mr. Cohen’s rare mix of business savvy and design sensibilities has been instrumental in CBRC’s extraordinary record of success and achievement. Since purchasing the company outright in 1988, he broadened its horizons and, at the same time, significantly increased its profitability. These results can be attributed to Mr. Cohen’s unparalleled expertise in all phases of building development -- from construction to leasing from financing to marketing and managing. At CBRC, he has astutely assembled a team of more than 400 employees who share his passion for, and commitment to, achieving the highest standards of excellence in the real estate field. The CBRC team finances, assembles, constructs and manages its own properties. An exacting dedication to detail and superior leadership skills are hallmarks of both CBRC and Mr. Cohen himself.
Throughout his career, Charles Cohen has worked in collaboration with a remarkable lineup of architects and design professionals on many prominent projects built for an array of Fortune 100 companies. In transforming the former General Foods Headquarters in White Plains, NY, into a Class-A multi-tenanted business center, Mr. Cohen worked with legendary architect Philip Johnson. He has completed projects with architects Helmut Jahn and Allan Greenberg and interior designers Adam Tihany and Jacques Garcia. In addition, Mr. Cohen has acquired buildings designed by the architectural firms of Kohn, Pederson & Fox and Cesar Pelli.
Mr. Cohen’s broad business and legal backgrounds stood him in good stead early in his career. An attorney admitted to practice law before the New York State Bar and the Southern and Eastern Districts of the U.S. Federal District Court, he served as an officer in Chemical Bank’s Real Estate Division from 1977 to 1979. Following that, he acted as vice president and General Counsel for CBRC until 1983, when he was installed as the company’s president.
Despite his inordinately busy schedule, Mr. Cohen has always found the time to pursue other interests -- both professional and personal. In 2008, Mr. Cohen joined the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. He is also the former chairman of the Metro New York Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), the international business organization’s largest chapter. In addition, Mr. Cohen is a trustee of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, The Lighthouse International, Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF), and is a Governing Member of the Real Estate Board of New York, and a member of the American Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Mr. Cohen is also a former trustee of the Public Theater.
Mr. Cohen is a board member of the Stella Adler Studio, The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Advisory Board for the Film Makers’ Cooperative, and is former chairman of the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation, a position that he held from 1991 to 1993.
He is a licensed real estate broker in New York and New Jersey. In 2001, Mr. Cohen received the USO’s prestigious Gold Medal for a lifetime of patriotic service to his country and was honored on both coasts by B’Nai B’rith International for his humanitarian and community service. He received the prestigious Israel Peace Medal in 2002 at a luncheon event in his honor that raised an all-time record $52.4 million for State of Israel Bonds.
In yet another arena, Mr. Cohen served as lead Executive Producer on the film Frozen River, which was awarded the 2008 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic. Juror, award presenter and famed director Quentin Tarantino described the film as “a wonderful depiction of poverty in America. It took my breath away, and then somewhere around the last hour, it put my heart in a vise and proceeded to twist that vise until the last frame.” The film went on to win two Spirit Awards and received two Academy Award nominations in major categories. This film was released by Sony Pictures Classics. Mr. Cohen created Cohen Media Group (CMG) in 2008 and has distributed over 20 independent films to date. A lifelong film aficionado, Mr. Cohen is the author of the well-received TriviaMania (Zebra Books), a Q&A Quiz Book that is a veritable bible of movie-related information. He also created, directed and produced a short, which was the recipient of a Kodak Movie Award.
Charles S. Cohen is a 1974 graduate of Tufts University and a 1977 graduate of Brooklyn Law School. He resides in suburban Connecticut (where his home has a movie theatre in it) and New York City. Mr. Cohen is married and has four children.
Committees: Board of Governors