Comcast executive and longtime Philadelphia political power player David L. Cohen is hoping to join President-elect Joe Biden’s administration as either commerce secretary or a high-profile ambassador, according to former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
Rendell, a longtime Cohen friend and associate, said he spoke with Cohen about potential administration roles shortly after Biden defeated President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.
“He would be terrific. In either post, he would be sensational,” Rendell said. Before joining Comcast, Cohen served as chief of staff when Rendell was mayor of Philadelphia.
Federal ethics rules require cabinet members to divest from significant holdings that may pose conflicts of interest or recuse themselves from decisions that could impact those investments. Ambassadorships, however, do not come with such stringent ethics rules.
Cohen spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice said that “any speculation is premature, but of course Mr. Cohen will comply with all ethics requirements.”
As of March 10, Cohen owned or controlled more than 3.9 million shares in Comcast, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. At Thursday’s stock price, that’s worth about $203 million. In 2019, Cohen earned $20 million in compensation from Comcast, including salary, stock awards, and incentives.
Cohen’s interest in serving as commerce secretary or as ambassador to the United Kingdom was first reported by Politico. British officials believe he is the front-runner for the latter job, according to Politico, potentially beating out Cindy McCain, the widow of former GOP presidential nominee John McCain.
Rendell said he’s unsure of whether Cohen is primarily gunning for the U.K. ambassadorship, as Politico’s report indicated. But Rendell said Cohen is interested in an ambassadorship to a country “that is central to U.S. policy,” such as Canada or Germany.
“He’s not looking for the Bahamas,” Rendell said.
Cohen is senior executive vice president at Comcast but is scheduled to limit his role at the Philadelphia-based cable and internet giant starting next month. He has signed an employment agreement with Comcast to serve as senior adviser to CEO Brian L. Roberts from Jan. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2025.
Cohen, however, would likely have to leave his role at Comcast if he joins the administration.
He is also set to step down as chairman of the University of Pennsylvania’s board of trustees in July.
Cohen is also a prolific Democratic fund-raiser and was a significant backer of Biden’s presidential run. Cohen hosted a fund-raiser for Biden on his first official day as a candidate, in April 2019, and another in September of last year.