CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears named Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren as their president and CEO on Thursday.
Warren will replace outgoing president and CEO Ted Phillips, who announced in September that he would retire after the 2022 NFL season. He is the first president and CEO hired from outside the Bears organization and the first Black president in team history.
“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 will oversee general manager Ryan Poles and the business operations of the club, according to a news release from the team. Poles currently reports to McCaskey, an organizational change that took place when he was hired as GM in January 2022. Previous general managers had reported to Phillips.
The Big Ten’s council of presidents and chancellors said in a statement that it will work with Warren “during this transition phase” and begin a search for a new commissioner.
Bears personnel have been told internally that Warren’s first day will be April 17, a source told ESPN’s Pete Thamel. Warren is expected to be introduced during a news conference at Halas Hall on Tuesday.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Warren had been with the Big Ten since June 2019 but recently was not given a contract extension by the conference, sources told Thamel. Last summer, Warren helped expand the conference with the additions of USC and UCLA as member institutions beginning in August 2024. He also secured the Big Ten’s seven-year media rights agreement worth more than $7 billion with CBS, Fox and NBC.
“The Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) for the Big Ten Conference is grateful to Commissioner Kevin Warren for his valuable service to the conference and its member institutions over the past three years,” the council said in a statement. “He has guided the conference with an innovative spirit, a passion for people and exceptional business acumen.
“Commissioner Warren was pivotal in the expansion from 14-to-16 academic and athletic member institutions and leading the media rights negotiations for the conference. He has been dedicated to building inclusion and equity in the conference while championing mental health and wellness. We thank him for his service and wish him the very best in his new endeavor as the president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Bears.”
Warren’s extensive experience in the NFL spans 21 years and includes stints with the Rams, Lions and Vikings, with whom he worked from 2005 to 2019. He spent 2005-14 as the Vikings’ executive vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer before being promoted to Minnesota’s chief operating officer in 2015.
Sources told ESPN that Warren’s impact in helping the Vikings build U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016 appealed to the Bears, who are also looking to construct a new stadium after 50 seasons at Soldier Field. The Bears aim to close on their 326-acre purchase in Arlington Heights during the first quarter of 2023 and unveiled initial plans for development, which is set to include a domed stadium, last fall.
The Bears have been under contract on the property since September 2021, when they signed a $197.2 million purchase and sale agreement.
“Kevin is going to be a tremendous resource, and I am excited to get started with him,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said. “In my time spent with him during the interview process, it quickly became apparent his résumé and business acumen will be a powerful asset to helping improve our organization and ultimately reach our goal to be a championship organization.”
Phillips spent 40 seasons with the Bears, including the past 23 in his role as president/CEO. He was only the fourth person to serve as president in the organization’s 102-year existence and was the first outside of the Halas-McCaskey family to hold that post.
“It was important to ensure the Bears had the right leader in place before I retired,” Phillips said. “Kevin will do an excellent job of bringing the best out of the great people at Halas Hall and continue the evolution of our proud franchise.”
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.