Bears

Bears hire Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren as new team president, CEO

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren speaks during Big Ten Media Days prior to the 2022-23 college basketball season, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, in Minneapolis.

The Bears have hired Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren as team president and CEO.

The news first was reported by the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Thursday. The Bears later confirmed the hire. Warren, 59, will take over his new role sometime this spring.

Warren is a high-profile hire for the organization. This fall, the Bears interviewed candidates to replace outgoing president Ted Phillips, who announced his plans to retire after the 2022 season in September. Phillips has held the organization’s top job since 1999.

Warren will become just the fifth team president in the franchise’s 103-year history. He joins a list that includes George S. Halas, George “Mugs” Halas Jr., Michael McCaskey and Phillips.

“Kevin is a man of integrity, respect and excellence, all of which are critical core values of the Chicago Bears, and we welcome his perspective and diverse thought to lead this storied organization,” Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said in a statement. “He is a proven leader who has many times stepped outside of his comfort zone to challenge status quo for unconventional growth and prosperity. 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.”

Warren has been the Big Ten commissioner since 2019. He led the conference through a turbulent time, dealing with COVID-19 disruptions and the emergence of name, image and likeness compensation in college sports. During his time as commissioner, the Big Ten brokered a massive new TV deal and added premier schools in USC and UCLA.

Before becoming Big Ten commissioner, Warren was the chief operating officer for the Minnesota Vikings from 2015-19. Prior to taking over the top job in Minnesota, Warren worked for the Vikings organization since 2005 in various roles. He previously worked for the Detroit Lions, the St. Louis Rams and as a sports agent.

Warren worked for the Vikings when they brokered a deal for U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. His experience in that arena likely was enticing for a Bears organization that is working on plans for a new stadium in Arlington Heights.

According to the Bears, Warren played “an instrumental role” in all business, financial, legal and operational aspects related to U.S. Bank Stadium. He was involved in the design, construction, business, legal and operational components of the new stadium, which opened in 2016. He also helped design, develop and plan a new training center for the Vikings.

“I am honored and recognize the responsibility bestowed upon me to lead the Chicago Bears during this exciting and pivotal time for the franchise,” Warren said. “I look forward to building on the rich tradition that started with George Halas and connecting with the unique and vibrant fanbase in Chicago. I join the Chicago Bears with gratitude and drive to carry out and build upon the legacy and spirit of this founding franchise and my predecessors. This is a franchise that is respected in all of professional sports, and I am humbled to be selected as the next President & CEO of the Chicago Bears. I sincerely thank Virginia McCaskey, George McCaskey, the McCaskey family, Ted Phillips and the search team, for the responsibility and trust placed in me to lead the Chicago Bears and deliver championships to Chicago.”

News that Warren was a candidate for the job leaked two weeks ago. He brings to the table something that his predecessor, Phillips, didn’t have when he took over in 1999 – experience running an NFL organization.

Phillips was hired from within the organization in 1999, after previously serving at various times as controller, director of finance and vice president of operations.

Over the past year, Phillips’ sole focus has been the business side of the organization. Team chairman George McCaskey announced last year that the team’s general manager, it’s top football decision maker, would no longer report to Phillips. Instead, new GM Ryan Poles reports directly to McCaskey.

While it’s unclear how the roles might change with Warren in charge, Warren certainly brings a level of football knowledge and expertise to Halas Hall.

The Bears said Warren would hold an introductory news conference Tuesday at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.