Titan of Canadian communications industry was a stalwart rugby supporter

Doug Crosse, for Rugby Ontario

A stalwart of Canadian rugby, who was also a titan in Canada’s communications industry, passed away this past January 16, 2023. Members of the Canadian rugby community felt a proper recognition of the contributions made to the sport by Alan Horn was due.

A stalwart of Canadian rugby, who was also a titan in Canada’s communications industry, passed away this past January 16, 2023. Members of the Canadian rugby community felt a proper recognition of the contributions made to the sport by Alan Horn was due.

Alan Douglas Horn was 71 when he passed away following a battle with cancer. Born in Kintore, Scotland, in 1951, Horn graduated with a mathematics degree from the University of Aberdeen, before getting his accountancy certification. These achievements laid the groundwork for his eventual move to Canada, which came about through his love of football (soccer).

As a member of the Queen’s Park Football Club, he toured Canada in 1978. A year later Horn joined Canadian accounting firm Thorne Riddell, which brought him his first contact with Ted Rogers; a meeting that would prove fortuitous for both men.

Serving for a decade as a tax consultant for the future communications mogul, Horn, and Rogers forged business and friendship connections that would last their whole working lives.

Horn joined ROGER’S Communications in 1990, eventually ascending to the role of Chief Financial Officer from 1996 to 2006, a period of torrid expansion and development in the cable and cell phone industry in Canada. From 2006 to 2017 Horn served as Chair of the Rogers board while also filling the role of interim President and Chief Executive Officer in 2008-2009 and 2016-2017.

While his work life was most impressive, his support of sport, both through playing and providing financial support, was a driving passion.

Horn played football throughout his life, but he also had a huge love of rugby which he showed through the support of the Ontario Rugby Union and sponsoring key events through Rugby Canada.

The pinnacle of Horn’s Canadian team support was the sponsorship of the Douglas Horn Cup, named after his father, who played rugby in Scotland. The formal name of the trophy is the  Douglas JL Horn Memorial Cup.

The trophy, first played for in 2008, is contested any time Scotland and Canada play rugby. First presented at the November 21,  2008 meeting between the teams at a frozen Pittodtrie Stadium in Horn’s native home of Aberdeen, Scotland claimed first rights with a 44-0 win.

In 2014 Canada very nearly got the trophy, falling 17-19 at a packed BMO Field in Toronto on June 14, 2014.

On June 9, 2018, the last time the teams met on the rugby pitch, Scotland beat Canada 48-10 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.

Long-time friend and fellow rugby enthusiast Trevor Jones of Toronto recalled warmly of his friendship with Horn for over 40 years in Canada. The duo traveled to Rugby World Cups around the globe, taking in the finals with their wives in locations such as Australia, England, and New Zealand. He said it is tough to gauge all that Horn did to promote the sport in Canada and around the world.

“Every aspect of Alan’s nature - he was a very generous man,” said Jones. “And in particular when it came to rugby, though he never played rugby his father did. He was generous and supported the game at every turn.

“The support he provided to Rugby Canada and Rugby Ontario and in effect the Canadian rugby community as a whole was immeasurable and impactful.”

Graham Brown, former Rugby Canada CEO (2002 - 2015) and recent member of Rugby Ontario’s Board of Directors (2017 - 2023), enjoyed spending time with Horn directly when leading the national governing body.  He said having such a staunch ally was critical to seeing rugby grow as a sport during that period.

“Alan provided us an important gateway to corporate Canada and played a role during my tenure as CEO in bringing rugby to a new level as a result,” recalled Brown. “The growth we saw during that time, in terms of where we played, the crowds we were bringing in, and the financial support were all hallmarks of Alan Horn helping not just Rugby Canada but supporting our players.   Alan was a friend and his presence inside our game will be truly missed.”

Another former CEO and player Gareth Rees echoed those sentiments.

“Not only was he a class act, he was a true rugby man,” said Rees, who played 55 times for Canada. “I believe his ability to help us grow rugby probably wasn’t noticed by a lot of people but he was in the board room getting us to levels where we had never been before. 

“Some might say we didn’t have any business being in there, but he was able to help us do things in rugby we weren’t able to do before. Getting games at BMO Field and having a presence in the Greater Toronto Area that we were never able to drum up before. He was a true part of that getting us access and profile ahead of our time.”

Horn’s support of Ontario rugby included the provision of a digital scoreboard at the main stadium at Fletcher’s Fields - also named after father Douglas. Premier league men’s and women’s matches were also broadcast on the Ontario network of Rogers Community cable stations.

When asked to reflect on the passing of Alan Horn, Graham Brown noted emotionally “I will never forget leaving Hemingway’s after a moderately successful 2011 RWC Fundraising event and Alan asking me whether or not the event had raised the anticipated amount of money for the team. Before I could respond, he said, “call me in the morning, I will make sure the players are looked after.”

Horn is survived by his wife of 48 years, Ruth, and their daughter Susan.