Steve Cozen Profile: The Inside Man

Whether he’s suing big corporations in disaster cases or Saudi Arabia over 9/11, Steve Cozen has built his career siding with the underdog. Now, with his hands in both casino deals, has the ultimate outsider become the quintessential insider?

Even as his competitors struggle to stay above water, Cozen’s zipping by on a Jet Ski, scanning the surface for fresh talent. It’s almost indecent. And meanwhile, he’s also deeply involved in the biggest story in the city right now: casinos. There are two groups of investors battling to open full-service casinos in the city. They’re competitors. And yet they have the same lawyer: Steve Cozen.

But wait, there’s more.

Cozen isn’t just a lawyer for the casinos. He’s also a part owner of one of the casinos (SugarHouse) and a lobbyist for the other (Foxwoods). What kind of a lobbyist is he? Apparently an awesome one, because he helped save Foxwoods, which has been plagued by construction delays, from certain death. In December, Cozen persuaded key legislators to insert a snippet of language into a gaming bill that specifically would benefit Foxwoods, giving it the possibility of getting an extension until 2012 to build a casino, as the Inquirer reported in January. The Inky story also implicitly raised the question of how one Steve Cozen keeps all the other Steve Cozens straight in his head: For instance, when the Steve Cozen who is the part owner of SugarHouse heard that the lobbyist Steve Cozen had greased the wheels for Foxwoods, did Steve Cozen wonder if he should call his attorney, Steve Cozen, and discuss what in the hell this Steve Cozen guy was trying to pull?

 
But to Cozen, it’s not weird at all. It’s just what he does, what he is, unapologetically: a man at the pinnacle of power, the high-stakes intersection of politics and law, shaping the forces that are shaping the city, our private disasters and our civic dreams. And to us Philly folk, who are fairly well used to reading passion plays about The Lives of the Connected, Cozen’s story is also fairly familiar — until we learn something about where he comes from. Until we hear, in fact, that the ultimate insider started out as a nobody, a middle-class kid from Wynnefield. A striver with zero cash, zero connections, but an idea.

 

 

HERE’S A FUN story about Steve Cozen. Years ago, when he was deciding how to decorate his office, some assistants brought him some very beautiful paintings, original paintings by respected artists. Cozen looked at the paintings. He looked at this painting and he looked at that painting, but he couldn’t find one that he liked. “I can’t find any artwork that says anything about who I am or what I believe in or what I like,” he said. So Cozen decided to take a different tack. He hired an artist to make a fiberglass cast of two large stones from the Western Wall in Israel. You know: the Wailing Wall. The casts, two feet tall and eight feet long, were painted to look exactly like the actual stones from the Wall. Then they were ferried to America by boat, and now they hang behind Cozen’s desk.

 

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