Music Theatre International Chairman Cameron Mackintosh and Co-Chairman Freddie Gershon have named Drew Cohen as the new global chief executive officer of the premiere theatrical licensing agency founded by Guys and Dolls writer Frank Loesser and orchestrator Don Walker in 1952.
Cohen will continue his role as MTI president, overseeing the company’s day-to-day operations in New York, while continuing to direct domestic and international strategies for its recent expansions into Europe, Australia, and Asia.
“I count Drew as one of my most treasured friends, but he is also one of the most determined, imaginative, and pro-active executives with whom I have ever worked,” Mackintosh said in a statement. “In addition to his integrity and extraordinary instincts for identifying and nurturing exciting and original musicals, he has demonstrated tremendous appreciation for musical theater and insightful support for the artists who create these musicals. Drew will now have even more latitude as CEO to steer MTI into the future. During his past 15 years at MTI, and over the 25-plus years that I have known him, Drew has earned not only my trust as a partner, but that of the authors and rights holders whom MTI represents. Together, we share a bullish outlook for the future of MTI's business and all of the opportunities that exist.”
Gershon added, “I told Drew years ago that working at MTI would essentially be a graduate school program with a double major in the Entertainment Business and Dramatic Rights Licensing, and I am ready to certify his doctoral degree. As MTI looks to the future and continues its mission of perpetuating musical theatre and generating passive residual income streams for the benefit of the authors we represent, I cannot think of a better executive to lead this effort. His imagination and enthusiasm are contagious and it is personally gratifying for me to make this announcement today. I am particularly delighted that MTI will continue the legacy of its co-founder, Frank Loesser, in its commitment to remaining an owner-operated business supported by my long-time partner Cameron Mackintosh. We are committed to the belief that this is the optimal way to insure the highest level of personal service to the needs of the authors we represent as well as their shows.”
MTI is familiar to amateur and school groups across the country as the go-to licensing company for titles ranging from West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and Annie, to recent hits like Les Misérables, Ragtime, Rent, Spring Awakening, and Hairspray–as well as the entire Disney and Sondheim catalogs.
The company has established itself as the industry vanguard, embracing digital technology and out-of-the-box thinking—like the Broadway Junior series—to identify untapped markets and secure viable revenue streams for the authors whose shows they represent.
“It’s been a driving principal that both Freddie and Cameron instilled in me,” says Cohen. “They both feel that the success of the shows is paramount, even beyond the success of MTI itself. And they’ve always put the success of the shows and the authors first.
“Our authors are creative entrepreneurs. Our goal is to support their new ventures and their existing ventures in any way that we can, but ultimately, it’s our goal to give them the ability to focus on what they’re great at. And not worry about the things that we can take off their plate for them. Which is the day to day management of their shows.”
For the shows in MTI’s catalog, a closing night on Broadway isn’t an end. It’s just the beginning. “Broadway is certainly not the final stop for most shows,” Cohen explains. “Our view has been and must always be the long view because we do represent the shows for long periods of time and the length of the copyright goes beyond the life of the author. So it’s very important that the authors know that there’s a long view in terms of stability within the company, which has been of paramount importance to all of us at MTI.”
To that end, Mackintosh, Gershon, and Cohen are committed to MTI remaining an independently held company. “We see how much nurturing these shows need,” he says. “I consider it a privilege to work with these authors who I’ve idolized throughout my life as a fan of musical theatre. Personally, I don’t like these works being treated like objects or assets, when the human element is just too important. This is the livelihood of these authors. And to those of us who love musical theatre, this is part of our history, our education.”
Under Cohen’s leadership, MTI is actively working to introduce musical theatre into untapped markets by partnering with producers on the local level to develop new audiences. “Over the past 10 to 15 years we have focused on developing relationships with producers in over 50 countries throughout the world, and we’ve seen a tremendous increase in business globally,” he says. “Our global strategy has been to address areas where there is significant demand for musical theatre, but beyond that, to go into areas where we feel that there is potential audience demand but there may not be a lot of product in terms of active productions.”
On the professional and amateur level, Cohen says MTI will continue to develop new production resources and to target passive revenue streams that will serve both the licensees and the authors. “If you think that the way you’ve been doing business is the way you’re going to be doing business in the future, then you’re probably missing out on important opportunities. So MTI comes in every day asking how we can do better?”