Allan Cohen, president and general manager at KMOV St. Louis, is retiring after a colorful 32-year run atop the Belo station. May 25 is his final day, after which Cohen, 64, will keep a home in St. Louis while traveling with his wife Roberta, and spending more time with his children and grandchildren.
Prior to in 1980, Cohen didn't figure to grow roots. "I told my wife, we'll go for two years and we'll live on a farm," he says. "But we fell in love with St. Louis. It's a great place to live, and a great place to raise children."
Belo has not named a successor. "Under Allan Cohen's leadership, KMOV rose from a modest television operation to become one the most watched CBS stations in the country," said Peter Diaz, Belo's president of media operations. "Allan and his staff have made KMOV an indispensable part of the St. Louis community, providing quality journalism and innovative programming, while giving back to the people of St. Louis by tirelessly supporting many charitable causes."
Cohen came from an electrical engineering background, and worked on satellite Doppler navigation for submarines in New York. He interviewed for a financial analyst job at WCBS New York, for which he presented an admittedly thin resume. "Everything I did was top secret," he says. "I couldn't put it on my resume."
He nonetheless was hired at WCBS, working for GM Tom Leahy. But after a few months on the job, Cohen had another change of heart. "I didn't want to be the CFO," he says. "I wanted to run a TV station. I thought it was the coolest job in the world."
CBS shifted Cohen to a corporate VP role, overseeing personnel for the broadcast group, then tapped him to take over KMOV. The CBS affiliate, now owned by Belo, is a strong station in DMA No. 21, taking on Gannett's KSDK, among other robust local players.
Cohen likes that St. Louis is big enough to offer major metropolitan amenities, but small enough that one can make a serious impact on the market through various boards and community organizations.
Among his career highlights, Cohen says watching his former employees move on to GM roles, such as Steve Hammel, Tom Raponi and Bobby Totsch, never fails to make him exceedingly proud. "Watching them get promoted to GM is so cool," he says. "I love developing and teaching people."
He credits Belo, and Peter Diaz, president of media operations, for giving him the backing needed to make a real difference in St. Louis. "Our guiding principle was, would we be proud to have [a story] play in Peter's office?" says Cohen. "If the answer was yes, we'd do it."
"The reason I worked for so long," Cohen adds, "is because of Belo."