Jack of All Trades1/30/2012 12:01 AM Eastern
Karen Dougherty Buchholz has always liked being in charge of large,
She was just 30 years old when she was tapped, in 1998, to head
up the Philadelphia host committee that was charged with landing and
then overseeing the 2000 Republican National Convention.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was also the co-chairman of the convention
committee and quickly came to the conclusion his company could benefi
t from her skill sets.
After the convention, Roberts hired Buchholz to oversee
the creation of the company’s first corporate communications
It wasn’t long before she was taking on even bigger,
multifaceted tasks, including construction of the company’s
new headquarters and, more recently, the wideranging
diversity initiatives now being undertaken on a
Buchholz’s title — vice president of administration —
doesn’t fully describe her duties at Comcast, which seem
to zig and zag each year, depending on what she and her
boss, executive vice president David Cohen, decide she
should focus on.
“Each year her responsibilities become broader,” Cohen
says. “She is the most talented person I have ever worked
with. She is the most impressive, poised and organized
person I know. She is in charge of corporate real estate,
security, aviation, administration and now diversity.
Every year we look at what’s next for her, and this year it’s
“After the NBCUniversal merger, we recognized we
needed to create a centralized diversity initiative,” Cohen
adds. “We needed to plan, develop, review, monitor and
execute a master plan for the company. We knew it had to
be a high-priority project and we knew Karen would be the
perfect person to oversee such a big and complex project.
Th e bigger, more complex the project and the more moving
parts there are, the better it is for Karen.”
Buchholz says her biggest challenge is getting everything
done to her satisfaction, adding: “But it’s also what
gets me up every day. I love what I do and I work with really
smart people, which is a joy.
“We want to be the model of diversity,” she says of her
“We have created fi ve areas of focus: governance, employees,
suppliers, programming and communities,” she
explains. “We are working in lockstep with our partners
over at NBCUniversal and have formed an external diversity
council that meets twice a year and talks regularly via
teleconference. NBC has already done a lot in this arena,
and I am working closely with them as well as the business
leads in our departments. It’s very exciting.”
Buchholz had worked in politics, which helped when it
came time to help land and plan the convention. But she
didn’t know much about construction or real estate.
To help prepare, she took real estate classes at the University
of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
Her study of the construction industry helped her anticipate
what would be needed for both the convention and
Comcast’s new headquarters, One Comcast Center, which
opened in 2008 and is the tallest building in Philadelphia.
Buchholz credits Cohen with providing valuable advice
and inspiration. “David sets the highest of standards, and
no detail is too small,” she says of her mentor. “He taught
me to always be prepared. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Cohen and Buchholz met in 1990, when she was overseeing
the Pyramid Club, an eating club in the Mellon
Bank Center. Cohen worked at law firm Ballard Spahr Andrews
& Ingersoll, which was moving into the building.
“She was incredibly young and incredibly dynamic,” Cohen
Later, he went to work for then-Mayor Ed Rendell, who
had pledged to help sell suites in the city’s new arena (now
called the Wells Fargo Center). Buchholz then was a sales
executive at the arena.
Cohen and Rendell recruited her as a staff member on
the convention committee. “But it wasn’t long before she
was running it,” Cohen recalls.
‘SHE’S A CONDUCTOR’
The convention was a huge success, drawing more than
50,000 people and generating more than $300 million for
the City of Brotherly Love’s economy.
Cohen and Buchholz reunited at Comcast, which
Cohen joined in 2002.
“She has to be a conductor of an orchestra so at the end
of the day, some terrific music is made together,” Cohen
says. “Karen is incredibly organized and no detail is too
small. But she is able to focus on the big picture and not
get lost in those details. She has the strongest project management
skills I have ever seen.”
Buchholz credits her experiences in politics for such
core beliefs as standing by her word and working hard to
build personal and professional connections.
She and her husband, Carl, are the proud parents of
Alex, 16, and Julia, 13.