The Chicago Bears have hired Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren to be their president and chief executive officer, the team announced Thursday.
Warren, who has been with the Big Ten for just over three years, will replace the Bears’ outgoing president and CEO.. Phillips has been with the Bears organization for more than 39 years, the last 24 as president and CEO.
In a statement, Bears president George McCaskey called Warren “a man of integrity, respect and excellence.” The team will introduce Warren at a news conference on Tuesday.
“We appreciate your diverse perspective and thinking in leading this historic organization,” McCaskey said. “He is a proven leader who has often stepped out of his comfort zone to challenge the status quo in pursuit of unconventional growth and prosperity.
“In this role, Warren will serve in the franchise’s primary leadership position to help bring the next Super Bowl championship trophy home to Bears fans.”
It comes at a historic moment in the organization’s history with the Bears pursuing a huge venture to build a new stadium and working to close soon on a 326-acre site at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights with the property slated to be more than just a new stadium. but a great entertainment district.
Warren, who was with the Minnesota Vikings organization for 15 seasons before moving to the Big Ten, was instrumental in creating the vision for US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis and carried it out during his time as the team’s director of operations. team. The Vikings opened that location in July 2016. Less than two years later, they also moved into their new state-of-the-art practice facility and team headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota, another project that had Warren’s fingerprints all over it.
After Phillips announced his plans to retire in September,to begin the search for a replacement with the help of search firm Nolan Partners. McCaskey listed several key traits he would look for in a candidate, including leadership, vision, humility and consensus building.
“You look at the qualities of outstanding leaders, and we believe we’ll be able to bring in an exceptional candidate to succeed Ted and lead the Bears,” McCaskey said in September.
Warren will join the Bears at a crucial time. Not only will he be responsible for overseeing the team’s stadium project and ongoing business ventures, but he is expected to provide direction for an entire building for a franchise that will have the No. 1 overall pick for April’s draft.
The team announced that Warren will oversee business operations and general manager Ryan Poles. Phillips had been the point person for hiring, firing and performance evaluations of Bears general managers until McCaskey took over that oversight this season.
In a statement, Warren thanked the McCaskey and Phillips family for trusting him.
“I am honored and recognize the responsibility that has been given to 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 began with George Halas and connecting with the unique and vibrant fan base in Chicago. I join the Chicago Bears with gratitude and drive to carry on and develop the legacy and spirit of this founding franchise and my predecessors.”
The Poles said in a statement that they believe Warren will be a “tremendous asset” as he rebuilds the Bears.
“During my time with him during the interview process, it quickly became apparent that his resume and business acumen will be a powerful asset in helping to improve our organization and ultimately achieve our goal of being a champion organization.” Poles said.
During Warren’s time as Big Ten commissioner, his think-big mentality was evident. The conference finalized an unprecedented media rights deal worth more than $7 billion in August. The conference also continued its expansion efforts with wheels in motion with Southern California and UCLA joining the league in 2024.
When Warren was hired to become Big Ten commissioner in 2019, Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf praised his leadership skills.
“Kevin has impacted the Vikings and our family immeasurably over the past 15 years,” the Wilfs said in a statement. “He has worked tirelessly to elevate the Vikings franchise, all for the good of the organization and Minneapolis-St. Paul in mind.”
Warren officially took over the Big Ten spot from Jim Delany in January 2020, and less than three months later faced his first. The conference’s initial decision to cancel the 2020 football season was controversial, but a nine-game season was ultimately played after pushback from coaches and athletes, including a petition from then-Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
Warren told reporters in July 2021 that she did not regret how she handled the situation.
“Naturally we all look back on our lives and there are things that we wish we had done maybe a little differently,” Warren said. “But if I had the opportunity to do it all last year, I would make the same decisions that we made because one of the things that I’ve always tried to focus on…is making sure that we keep our student-athletes at the highest level. center of all of our decisions, athletic, academic, regarding college football playoff expansion, relationships with our media partners, relationships with our bowl partners, all of those different things.
“If we put them at the epicenter of our decisions, we will be fine. And we did it last year in the Big Ten.”
Warren was a basketball player at Penn University and Grand Canyon in his native Phoenix, where he was an Academic All-American. He earned a law degree from Notre Dame, was an NFL executive with the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions before the Vikings, and also worked as a sports agent.
Former Bears defensive lineman Chris Zorich was his first client.
“He is amazing”, Zorich. “No one will top you at work. He brings something extra to everything he does. If the stadium (of the Vikings) has four walls and a roof, it will have four walls, a roof and a lactation room.
Warren was the first black commissioner of a Power Five conference and now becomes the first black president in Bears history. Phillips was the first Bears president outside of the Halas/McCaskey family, with Michael McCaskey, George “Mugs” Halas, Jr. and George S. Halas serving before him.
Warren and his wife, Greta, live in Chicago and have two adult children, a daughter, Peri, and a son, Powers.