Businessman Simon Cohen gives away £1m company

International PR agency Global Tolerance handed to two finalists following worldwide search

Entrepreneur Simon Cohen today announced he has given away his £1m-valued international PR agency Global Tolerance to two finalists of his worldwide search for a successor.

The unusual exit strategy, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, will see Cohen give away 95% of the shares, cash and assets of the communications firm – which has represented the Dalai Lama, TED and the UN – to Noa Gafni and Rosie Warin, finalists of his Open Leadership Exercise (OLE) competition.

Cohen will retain a 5% stake and an advisory role at the company following the handover.

The decision follows a worldwide call for successors through the OLE, a leadership competition which saw applicants from 30 countries undergo a rigorous five-stage interview process culminating in a “Dragons’ Den-style” pitch to a panel of judges on a London yacht.

Cohen and the panel took the decision to select two of the eventual finalists to take over the business – Noa Gafni, a digital strategist from the World Economic Forum, and Rosie Warin, a PR director at Forster Communications.

It is not the first unusual step Cohen has taken as head of Global Tolerance, after he announced the entire company was to take a 1-year sabbatical in 2013 ahead of the birth of his first child.

The pair will receive 95% of shares, £10,000 cash in the bank and all company assets following the deal.

The exit strategy has attracted acclaim from several leading executives and business leaders, including figures at JP Morgan, Ogilvy PR and Cisco.

Global Tolerance founder Simon Cohen said: “The success of the Open Leadership Exercise represents a gauntlet for entrepreneurs to give away their companies – instead of selling out.

“In Noa and Rosie, I have found two amazing leaders, two inspirational ladies who permeate the values of Global Tolerance. I’m excited to see the direction they take the company in.”

Iain Bundred, EAME corporate director at Ogilvy PR, one of the final judges at the OLE, commented: “It was great to collaborate with such an innovative business transition. When Simon Cohen first told me he planned to do this, I was curious as to whether he could follow through on his promise to hand his whole company over to the next generation of talent.

“Whilst I know it has been truly terrifying experience for Simon, it has also been a terrific learning process.

“Through the Open Leadership Exercise, global tolerance has been open to talent and ideas from across the world. This could act as a blueprint for others and be the first of many creative and effective leadership exits.”

Global Tolerance is set to re-launch as an operational agency this autumn. Incoming business owner Noa Gafni said: “Global Tolerance has pushed business boundaries since its conception and Simon’s exit strategy is another bold manifestation.

“Under our leadership, the company will continue to place innovation front and centre – challenging convention and treading the untrodden to deliver the most effective communications in the world.”

Rosie Warin added: “Our society is on the verge of a values revolution; people are demanding more meaning from corporates, governments, and international organisations.

“Authenticity, transparency and social purpose are critical to the success of all organisations. We can help clients navigate and tap into this changing social consciousness in order to achieve their aims through social impact.”


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