Distinguishing himself through exceptional example and providing an exemplary role model for future generations, Steve Cannon is being honored as the 2019 Outstanding American by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
A United States Military Academy graduate and former U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant, Cannon was captain of both the football and wrestling teams at Ramapo High School in Wyckoff, New Jersey, earning All-State honors in football and All-County honors in wrestling. He lettered two years in wrestling at the United States Military Academy and scored a perfect score on every Army Physical Fitness Test for four years. Leading into his senior year, he was selected to lead Cadet Basic Training and later earned the position of Cadet Regimental Commander for 4th Regiment, placing 1,000 cadets under Cannon’s leadership.
Cannon, who graduated with honors and received his bachelor’s degree in economics from West Point, passed U.S. Army Ranger School and officer training before being assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment along the West German-Czech border. He was on the border when the Cold War ended in 1989.
After completing his military service, Cannon began his career in the automotive industry as the assistant to the President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz North America. He moved to Germany and became the first American to join a team tasked with the design, development, production and launch of the M Class, which would be the first Mercedes-Benz series to be manufactured in the United States. After the successful launch of the M Class, Cannon became director of marketing for debis Financial Services and later left Mercedes-Benz to serve as principal for The Richards Group, the largest independent full-service advertising agency in the United States.
Cannon returned to Mercedes-Benz USA in 2007 as chief marketing officer and he and his team moved the brand into some of the most prestigious platforms in sports, including The Masters, The U.S. Open tennis tournament and the PGA Championship. In 2011, Cannon was named CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, becoming only the second American to lead the company. Under his leadership, Mercedes-Benz USA experienced double-digit growth and for the first time in the company’s history achieved a No. 1 ranking in customer satisfaction.
He was named CEO of AMB Group, LLC, which is the parent company of Arthur M. Blank’s for-profit businesses in December of 2015. Cannon oversees all business operations of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons; Atlanta United of Major League Soccer; Mercedes-Benz Stadium; and retailer PGA TOUR Superstore. He is also on the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s board of directors.
Cannon and members of his West Point Class of 1986 founded the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund in 2014. What began as a small effort to help one fallen classmate’s family has grown into an organization that has raised more than $17 million. The organization honors military service and sacrifice by providing scholarships to veterans and military family members, particularly children of our nation’s fallen and disabled.
Cannon also serves on the national board of directors for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and has led efforts to make the Atlanta Falcons’ military outreach efforts the benchmark in the NFL. In 2018, Cannon and Falcons coach Dan Quinn led the first NFL team-directed USO Tour, visiting soldiers at various bases throughout Iraq and Kuwait.