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Denise Donlon

Media Trailblazer

Denise Donlon is one of Canada’s most innovative broadcasters and respected corporate leaders, renowned for incorporating human rights advocacy, social issues and arts & culture in her work. Donlon has served as General Manager of CBC English radio, President of Sony Music Canada, and VP/GM of MuchMusic and MuchMoreMusic. She is the author of Fearless As Possible (Under The Circumstances).

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


The Power of Principle: Fearless (as possible) on the rocky road to ethical leadership
Denise Donlon knows that no matter what you do, you have an opportunity to build a legacy, both personally and professionally.  She will inspire your team with business, career and celebrity stories told with wit, empathy and zeal for the bottom line. She will illustrate why doing the right thing is the best thing for business, by engaging your customers and community, and making a positive contribution.

If Darwin was a CEO: Lessons learned from the music business meltdown
Denise Donlon became president of Sony Music Canada precisely at the moment the recording industry began to reel from massive digital disruption. Her observations from the frontlines of an industry under fire, told with insight, humour and a dash of celebrity, illustrate why agile adaptation in the face of rapid change is the only way to evolve and survive in any business.

Backwards in High Heels: The trials and triumphs of lady leadership
We know the numbers. Women remain woefully underrepresented on boards, in politics and as CEO’s. Denise Donlon’s expansive executive experience in the cultural industries has furnished her with unique insights on female power in the workplace; how to get it, how to wield it, and how to honour your authentic self even when you lose it.

  • Denise Donlon is more than engaging, she provides an inspirational message that is both authentic, charming and funny. She won over the audience as ‘speaker of the day’ at our annual Women In Business Conference. #WIBC17.The standing ovation after her keynote was testament to the fact that she is a brilliant presenter. It was an honour to have Denise join us, and we would welcome her back anytime.

    - CEO and Founder, Women in Business Conference, Ottawa
  • She was fun, funny and yet still provided a thoughtful and serious talk. I got lots of kudos from attendees…She’s got great charisma and you really get a sense of her as a person when she speaks. She’s warm and passionate and she knows how to share that boundless energy with her audience. Just fantastic!

    - Canadian Society of Training and Development
  • Denise is one of those rare individuals who inspires trust from all who know her and if you don't know her she soon makes you feel like you do. She is charming and disarming, and can fill a room with her warmth and child like enthusiasm and at the same time is sharp as a knife when it means cutting to the chase or staying focused on issues and problems and getting things done.

    - Musician & Humanitarian, Tom Cochrane
  • Denise Donlon isn’t just a Canadian media trailblazer, she is a fierce feminist, a sharp intellectual, and one of our country’s brightest beams of light

    - Joseph Boyden, Gilller Prize Winning Author
  • Denise Donlon is the First Lady of the Canadian music business; a woman who has smashed every glass celling to smithereens and somehow has done it in the loveliest way.

    - Alan Doyle, Musician, Actor, and Author
  • On air and off, she’s battled for women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights and environmental protection, championed AIDS research, and was among the first public figures to support War Child. She’s blasted through several glass ceilings, bettered our social and cultural landscapes, justly earned the Order of Canada and lived to tell about it all, gutsily and vibrantly. She is, in equal parts, Canada’s Sheryl Sandberg, Gloria Steinem and Nora Ephron. - Macleans
  • As a speaker, Denise Donlon is personable, beautiful and bold. She takes on the tough and the tenacious, the terrible and the tender with a warmth and connection that is rare and compelling. An inspiring speaker who addresses ethical, personal and professional challenges, as a Keynote at Speaking Her Mind: Canadian Women and Public Presence, she was accessible and grounded despite her glamorous connections and world experience. She is absolutely fascinating, and speaks incredibly well. - Aritha van Herk, AOE, FRSC, D.Can.L. (Hon.) University of Calgary

Summary Profile

Denise Donlon is one of Canada’s most successful broadcasters and corporate executives. Highly regarded as a principled leader and spirited communicator, she has navigated corporate culture with integrity, responsibility and an irrepressible passion to be a force for good.

Denise Donlon has operated on the frontlines of massive changes in the music industry, media and Canada’s cultural industries. As VP and GM of MuchMusic/MuchMoreMusic her mandate was ‘relevance’ during a time when music videos became a medium that would change pop music and popular culture forever. She became the first female president of Sony Music Canada, where she navigated the crisis in the music industry with the rise of Napster and the new digital revolution while overseeing the country’s marketing, sales and promotion of some of the world’s biggest artists, including Leonard Cohen, Celine Dion and Bruce Springsteen. She was Executive Director then General manager of CBC English Radio when the corporation absorbed funding cutbacks leading to mass layoffs and a shadow over the future of Canada’s national public broadcaster.

Her impressive and storied career has been highlighted by her passionate engagement with charitable organisations.  She travelled to conflict zones like Sierra Leone and Northern Uganda doing documentary work on war affected women and children with War Child Canada, she was the event producer of the Clinton Global Initiative which raised over $21 million in one evening, and was a co-producer of Live 8, the Canadian international concert event. These initiatives and more are chronicled in her smart, inspiring and ‘wickedly funny’ 2017 memoir ‘Fearless As Possible (Under the circumstances)’, nominated for the Kobo Emerging Author Prize.

Denise creates an environment of innovation, celebration and success. As well as her membership in the Order of Canada, she is a Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Music and has been inducted into the Broadcast Hall of Fame. She has been honoured with the Humanitarian Spirit Award and Trailblazer Award at Canadian Music Week, Woman of the Year from Canadian Woman in Communications, and Woman of Vision from Wired Women.