Digital Visionary

by deirdre Kelly

photography by mike Ford

If it’s Tuesday it must be Toronto. Because Monday is Milwaukee and Wednesday is Macau, followed by Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Orange County, roughly in that order. 

Leonard Brody (LLB ’97) checks his cell phone. Yup. That insanely peripatetic schedule looks about right. 

There’s a seventh day, and it’s back home in Vancouver, where in about a week’s time the Canadian venture capitalist with a global clientele (including a European royal family and a celebrity or two) is planning to return. Not to rest, mind. But to recharge and go-go-go all over again. 

“Boredom is not an emotion any adult should feel; being bored is not an adult experience,” says Brody, 48, while on a layover in Toronto where the born and bred Calgarian also conducts business. “Things you can do can be boring. You could be in a boring job. But we’re living in the most abundant moment of humanity, so I just don’t get it when people say they are bored. I am never bored. I am tired a lot but never bored. It’s just not allowed.”

Brody lives and dies by that rule. His brain is as wide-roving as his flight pattern, investigating everything from music-generating artificial intelligence to consumer-facing technologies in the growing gaming market. 

Over the past 20 years, he has worked in the sports and concert promotion industries and run an e-commerce company that went on to become one of the largest internet initial public offerings in history. He has also authored two successful books on business innovation and has another in the works, The Great Rewrite, a collaboration with Forbes magazine based on the successful documentary series first produced last year concerning new digital trends and how they are rewriting the way we work and live. 

As if that weren’t enough, Brody is a shareholder and part owner of the English professional soccer team Coventry City, an in-demand speaker at G8 summits and the United Nations, and the founder of NowPublic, a pioneering citizen journalism site that he cannily sold for a big whack of cash to the Anschutz Entertainment Group in the U.S. in 2009, launching his present career as a venture capitalist.

Brody honed his ambitions at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, attending as an out-of-province student in the 1990s even though he didn’t think a law career was ultimately for him. 

His uncle, Canadian lawyer and media czar Izzy Asper, had strongly advised him to get a law degree before making his way out into the world, advice Brody dutifully if not begrudgingly heeded. “Certainly, I never saw myself working in a law firm wearing a suit,” he says. “I still don’t own a suit. It’s just not me.”

Almost as soon as he joined a Bay Street law firm post-graduation he left it to develop the sports agency he had already launched on the side while an articling student. From there, Brody quickly moved on to even bigger game, working with brands like Facebook, Pepsi and Warner Bros. to innovate and build systems and structures to take their companies forward in the digital age.

Today, as the co-founder and executive chair of Creative Labs, a joint venture with  Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in L.A., Brody oversees the building of new ventures for international celebrities and political leaders. Working with one of the world’s largest sports and entertainment agencies has brought him even bigger recognition.

For raising hundreds of millions in capital for startup companies and helping to steer them in the right direction, Brody has earned a coveted spot on this year’s Thinkers50 Radar list as one of the top 30 up-and-coming management thinkers on the planet. 

Compiled by Thinkers50, a U.K.-based global business ideas platform, the list comprises people from around the globe whose work will shape the future of how organizations are managed and led. Heralded as a “digital visionary,” Brody is the only Canadian ranked in 2019.

“At Thinkers50, we are interested in people who think about business and who put their ideas to work,” says the platform’s co-founder Stuart Crainer, speaking from England. 

“What brought Leonard Brody to our attention was his blending of entrepreneurial vigour with interesting ideas about the future shape of organizations. It is a powerful combination.”

Brody will pick up his award at the Thinkers50 gala, the Oscars of the management world, taking place in London in November. 

It’s a prestigious affair that might prompt Brody to finally buy that suit. Provided he can find the time. 

“Some people really do believe their own hype. But to me that’s not reality. That’s not being authentic to yourself,” he says, stealing another glance at his constantly pinging phone. “Be real about where you’re at and you’ll always know where you’re going.”  ■