Bears Tap Big Ten Commish as New President & CEO

Former Big 10 Commissioner Kevin Warren

Getty Kevin Warren presents the 2021 Big Ten championship trophy.

The Chicago Bears have hired Kevin Warren to be the team’s new president and CEO, the team announced on Thursday, January 12.

Warren has spent the last three years as commissioner of the Big Ten, the conference’s first Black commissioner. Before that, he spent 22 years in NFL front offices, with stops in Minnesota, Detroit and St. Louis.

He will replace Ted Phillips, who retired at the close of the season. Phillips, the first person outside the Halas-McCaskey family to run the team, leaves the Bears after 40 seasons, spending the last 23 seasons as president and CEO.

“This is exactly what the Bears need,” Chicago Tribune columnist Dan Wiederer wrote in the wake of the announcement. “Warren has never been OK with things being just OK. … Think of this as a healthy injection of ambitious energy for an organization that could surely benefit from it.”

The Chicago Bears’ Kevin Warren Is Known as a Man of Action

Warren’s tenure at the Big Ten was short but impactful. He helped the conference navigate the COVID pandemic and expanded it to 16 teams with the much-lauded additions of USC and UCLA in 2024. The expansion includes a seven-year media-rights agreement with CBS, FOX and NBC worth over $7 billion.

Bears Chairman George McCaskey said he believed he got the right man to take the Bears to the next level.

“He is a proven leader who has many times stepped outside of his comfort zone to challenge status quo for unconventional growth and prosperity,” McCaskey said in an official team statement. “In this role, Warren will serve in the primary leadership position of the franchise to help bring the next Super Bowl championship trophy home to Bears fans.”

The Athletic’s Jon Greenberg wrote that Warren has the “best mix of experience for what the Bears need.”

“Perhaps under Warren, the Bears will be recognized for their present and future successes and not just their ancient history,” Greenberg wrote.

Warren is expected to oversee GM Ryan Poles, who currently reports directly to McCaskey.

“In my time spent with him during the interview process, it quickly became apparent his resume and business acumen will be a powerful asset to helping improve our organization and ultimately reach our goal to be a championship organization,” Poles said via the statement.

On his “The Full Go” podcast, The Ringer’s Jason Goff praised the Bears for hire.

“Finally, the Chicago Bears feel like the team that is not only thinking next level but is next level,” Goff said.

Many league insiders believe the Bears targeted Warren specifically for his deal-making ability. While with the Vikings, Warren was instrumental in the development of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. He was part of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) board of directors, which oversaw the $1.1 billion project. Warren also served as the MSFA chair from 2013 to 2018 and was a key figure in the negotiations between the MSFA, Vikings and the city of Minneapolis.

The Bears are currently under contract to purchase Arlington Park, a site in suburban Arlington Heights, the Bears have long coveted for the team’s new stadium and entertainment facility. Plans for the new location include retail space, restaurants and year-round entertainment and events. Warren’s past experience in Minnesota positions him to take the reins of the project.

Kevin Warren Has Legendary Shoes to Fill

Ted Phillips began his career with the Chicago Bears in 1983 as the team’s controller. In 1999 Phillips was named the team’s president, and CEO, becoming only the fourth person to hold that title. During Phillips’ tenure, the Bearsmade eight playoff appearances, four> NFC Championship game appearances, one Super Bowl appearance, and one Super Bowl victory under Phillips’ leadership. Phillips announced his retirement prior to the 2022 season beginning.

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