Joseph H. Cohen
Joseph H. Cohen CM LL.D. (1921 – June 2011), born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was a Canadian entrepreneur, community builder, philanthropist, and Member of the Order of Canada. He was married to the late Frances Cohen (née Belzberg) and was the father of Lori, Bruce (deceased), and Phyllis.
Joseph Cohen came from a poor immigrant family of eight, the son of Alexander and Rose (Diamond) Cohen.
Joseph's five brothers, John, Albert D. Cohen, Harry B. Cohen, Morley Cohen, and Samuel N. Cohen, set up a small retail store and, by 1939, the family had scraped together enough monies to create General Distributors Ltd., a wholesale import firm.
Sony and the Cohen Brothers
By 1950, General Distributors sales amounted to $1 million. In the early Fifties, the company obtained exclusive Canadian rights for Paper Mate pens. Then, in 1955, brother Albert D. Cohen accomplished the most amazing feat of landing the Canadian distribution rights to Sony products. Spotting an ad in a Japanese newspaper seeking a distributor for a new portable transistor radio, Albert met with Sony co-founder, Akio Morita. On the basis of a handshake deal, Albert cemented a partnership that would last for decades. The Cohen brothers scattered across Canada in order to manage the national business, each brother establishing himself in a major city: Morley (Montreal), John (Toronto), Joe (Vancouver), Harry (Calgary), and both Sam and Albert setting up headquarters (Winnipeg).
SAAN, Metropolitan, real estate, and the Cohen Brothers
The six brothers expanded into real estate and retailing. Over the years, they established several hundred SAAN Stores and Metropolitan junior department stores in all provinces of Canada. The explosive growth of the SAAN Stores chain was guided by Samuel N. Cohen while Metropolitan's expansion was overseen by Morley Cohen. At one point, it is said the Cohen brothers owned downtown real estate in almost every major Canadian city. By 1983, the company was a diversified Canadian conglomerate, renamed Gendis.
Oil & Gas, and the Cohen Brothers
Under the guidance of Albert D. Cohen, the six brothers participated in various joint ventures and/or owned several minority interests in oil & gas exploration, development, and distribution. The companies included Tripet Resources; Chauvco Resources; Pioneer Natural Resources; Fort Chicago Energy Partners L.P.; and Tundra Oil & Gas.
Joseph Cohen was considered to be one of the major community builders/philanthropists in Vancouver.
Several of his notable accomplishments include:
- Former Director of the YMCA, Vancouver
- Former Director of the Justice Institute of British Columbia
- Former Director, St. Vincent's Hospital
- Former Director, Teleglobe Canada (renamed VSNL International Canada)
- Former Chairman, Vancouver Police Foundation
- Member of the Royal Commonwealth Society
- Vancouver Man of the Year (1971)
- Member of the Order of Canada (1978)
- Honorary Member, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (1979)
- Freeman, City of Vancouver (1980)
- Boy Scouts Medal of Merit (1982)
- British Columbia Catholic Man of the Year (1982)
- Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, University of British Columbia (1986)
- "The Acquisitors, the Canadian Establishment, by Peter C. Newman, 1981, McClelland and Stewart (Toronto, Ont)".
- "The Entrepreneurs, the Story of Gendis, by Albert D. Cohen, 1985, McClelland and Stewart (Toronto, Ont)".