Chief Development Officer
In 2014-15, Cliff Benson will be entering his fourth year as chief development officer with the Buffalo Sabres. Benson’s main duties as chief development officer are overseeing the Buffalo Sabres Foundation and other initiatives throughout the Buffalo and Western New York communities.
Previously, Benson served the team as a senior advisor and was instrumental in the purchase of both the Sabres, in February 2011, and the team’s AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, in June 2011, by Sabres owner Terry Pegula. Benson was also instrumental in facilitating Pegula’s $88 million donation to help launch a Division-I men’s ice hockey program at Pennsylvania State University in 2011.
In 2012, Benson led a team that secured yet another piece of Pegula’s hockey footprint by developing HARBORCENTER, a $172 million multipurpose hockey and entertainment facility that will sit directly across from First Niagara Center in the city’s Canalside District. Benson also led negotiations to partner HARBORCENTER with Marriott International, to develop a 200-room full-service hotel at the complex, and also with Canisius College, which will use HARBORCENTER’s two NHL-size ice rinks as its home arena when the complex opens in September 2014.
HARBORcenter is expected to draw more than 500,000 people to downtown Buffalo annually and, coupled with First Niagara Center, will be a premier destination for hockey.
Benson, a CPA and attorney, served the Deloitte Tax LLP organization for 37 years, including 10 years as lead client service partner in the market place function. He became partner in 1981 and served in the New York and South Florida offices before transferring to Pittsburgh and eventually retiring in May 2010.
In 2000, Benson, along with members of the Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni, formed Hockey in the Hood. Founded with a grant from the National Hockey League's Diversity Task Force and assistance from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hockey in the Hood (now called Pittsburgh ICE) was one of 40 major diversity ice hockey programs throughout the United States and Canada with the goal of reaching underprivileged inner-city children by teaching them skating and ice hockey lessons.
Benson served as the lead client service partner for the worldwide services provided to the United States Steel Corporation and H.J. Heinz. Other clients served over his long career at Deloitte include Armco, Bayer Corporation, Marathon Oil, PPG Industries, Rockwell International, the Pittsburgh Penguins and East Resources.
Benson is passionate about serving the community and has been actively involved in charitable organizations for most of his career – primarily those that benefit inner city children with limited opportunities. He is affiliated with Hasek’s Heroes, SABAH, Imani Christian Academy (Board Chair), the Buffalo Outer Harbor Development Committee and was named to the Penn State Board of Trustees in February 2014. Benson was privileged to make three trips to Haiti, bringing medical relief, following the 2010 earthquake.