JONES: Victor Cui will be named president and CEO of the Edmonton Elks

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EXCLUSIVE: The Edmonton-born and raised founder of Asian mixed martial arts organization ONE Championship will be featured at Tuesday’s press conference

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A press conference will be held on Tuesday to feature arguably the most overqualified employee in EE football history.

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Victor Cui comes home.

“I have accepted an offer as president and CEO of the Edmonton Elks and I am exceptionally excited,” said Cui, making the announcement himself with this exclusive interview. “For me, that’s pretty much the biggest opportunity I can think of – to be able to take my global sporting experience that I’ve been blessed to have been able to build and bring that to my hometown at the team that I like.”

Born and raised in Edmonton, Cui took a job with the 2001 Edmonton World Championships in Athletics and became a key part in the creation of ONE Championship, a multi-billion dollar Asian sports entertainment business.

In many ways, for Cui, this is an act of giving back.

“It was the team that gave me my first scholarship. I was a recipient of the Johnny Bright Community, Leadership, Academics and Sports Based Scholarship.

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“It strikes so many personal chords for me.”

Cui said the football franchise was a big part of his life.

“It was the typical story of an immigrant from a family that left the tropical islands of the Philippines, who knew nothing and had no money. My mother, Remy, is a nurse and my father, Victor Iano, is an engineer. The government placed them in Rimbey, Alberta. For the first time in their lives, they experienced minus-40 degrees.

“They moved to Edmonton, where I was born. Over the years, we have brought over 30 families. They would live with us until they found employment and acclimatized. We bought them jerseys and took them to Eskimos games and taught them what it was like to be Canadian.

At the University of Alberta, Cui became vice-president of the student union. His first job was with Klondike Days, where he ran downtown operations. He then managed to find a job in Kuala Lampur working with the organizing committee of the Commonwealth Games that I was covering.

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Back home, Cui made the key move of his career.

“I looked up Rick LeLacheur’s name in the phone book,” he said of the former EE board chairman and Gray Cup president who was hired to lead the event. LeLacheur would later become Eskimos-president and CEO.

“I left a dozen messages on his machine until he finally called me back. He told me they were about to move into this old school near the stadium. He said that I could come the next day and help them move. I carried boxes all day. I was hired.

Cui traveled to Seville, Spain for the world championships and the Sydney Olympics to help organize the marketing and promotional functions for Edmonton 2001.

Cui then led ex-Eskimo Bill Smith’s campaign for mayor. His father had previously campaigned for ex-Eskimo Don Getty for the premiership.

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From there, Cui spent five years as Head of Communications and Public Relations for Golf Canada. This led to employment with Singapore-based ESPN-Star Sports.

“They are the largest regional sports broadcaster in the world and I led their new business development department for events and event management.”

After a five-year stint, he joined ONE Championship, a mixed martial arts property also based in Singapore.

“The company started with a team of just me and now has 300 employees and nine offices around the world. Today, ONE Championship is now #1 in the world with the most watched video content on Facebook.

So why would he quit this job to take on the EE job?

“In 2020, just when COVID was hitting, I moved back to Edmonton basically to put my family first. I was working at a crazy pace. I was traveling four days a week and on a plane 10-12 times a week. My daughter, Kayleigh, is 13 and my son, Liam, is 11.

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“My board at ONE Championship told me I could work from anywhere in the world. My wife, Carmen, is from Singapore and we came to Edmonton for a vacation and my wife said, ‘ We’re done looking, Edmonton is the place.

“My parents used to live with us in Singapore, but they had to come back here and be with all their grandchildren. My brother, RJ, still lives here and owns a business.

Cui has stepped down from his day-to-day role with ONE Championship, although he remains a major advisor and shareholder. He did not ask for any massive salary from the community-owned football club.

“I’m lucky that shouldn’t have been my main motive. My main goal is for my heart to drive things that match my skills.

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“I feel so lucky. I’m at this intersection of faith and luck that put me here for this opportunity.

“I was this short, chubby, talkative young Filipino from Castledowns, north of Edmonton. I was blessed to have this fantastic sporting career all over the world and build a multi-billion dollar business. And now I can take all that knowledge and bring it back to a team that gave me my first scholarship.

“I feel privileged to have this all lined up for me. I can make the Edmonton Elks the best sports organization in the country.

You had the idea. Victor Cui is one hell of a rookie.

Email: [email protected]

On Twitter: @byterryjones

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