Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips plans to retire in late February after spending 40 seasons with the franchise.
The 65-year-old has worked in his present role since 1999. Phillips originally joined the Bears in 1983 as the team's controller, a position he held for four years. He then served as director of finance from 1987-93 and vice president of operations from 1993-99.
Phillips' decision to retire has been a few years in the making.
"Forty seasons is a long time," he said. "I'm very blessed and I love my job. But when COVID hit, it gave me time to reflect and think about what I want my future to be. I'm healthy, so there's no issue there, knock on wood. It was more just wanting to give myself the gift of time, to be able to enjoy my family and my friends.
"It's a demanding job; takes a lot of time, there's a lot of pressure. I just felt like it's time to hand the baton to somebody else."
Phillips is just the fourth president in the Bears' 102-year history, following George Halas, George "Mugs" Halas Jr. and Michael McCaskey.
Phillips' greatest accomplishment in that role was orchestrating a deal for a renovated Soldier Field, which opened in 2003. Highlights included two 82-by-23-foot video scoreboards, a three-level club lounge, a Bears Ring of Honor throughout the mezzanine level, a Bears Den gallery depicting historical events from Soldier Field's past and an open-air courtyard inside Gate 0 for an in-stadium tailgating experience.
"Ted accomplished what George Halas and Mike McCaskey could not do for decades," said Bears chairman George H. McCaskey. "He navigated difficult political waters with the city, the park district, the state, the governor's office, various constituencies, ownership, staff and football operations."
Phillips began his quest for a rebuilt Soldier Field shortly after becoming Bears president and CEO in 1999.
"To be able to bring together so many different people—from attorneys to political lobbyists, political strategists, architects, contractors, the mayor and the governor—that was a sense of accomplishment," Phillips said. "So many people played such a huge role in that. I'm still amazed sometimes when I drive to Soldier Field. [I wonder], 'How did we get that done?' That was a special time."
Phillips also oversaw a Halas Hall renovation project in 2012 that added over 30,000 square feet to the team's headquarters. The improvements included additions to the weight and training rooms, an upgraded locker room, additional meeting spaces and offices, and a new event center which features a broadcast studio and conference space.
Phillips later helped coordinate an even more massive renovation and expansion to Halas Hall that was completed in August 2019. The project was highlighted by a sparkling 162,500-square-foot football operations addition to the already-existing 143,000-square foot facility. The renovation completely transformed the look and feel of the entire facility.
More recently, in 2021, Phillips restructured the Bears front office in an effort to promote the club's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts. Beginning in 2020, he helped guide the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic.
George McCaskey said "there's no way to quantify" how much Phillips has meant to the Bears.
"[Bears Hall of Famer] Bronko Nagurski once said of George Halas, 'He'll do to ride the river with,'" McCaskey said. "That was high praise coming from the 'Bronk,' an avid outdoorsman, and I can say the same about Ted. If you're out there in the elements, you want somebody who's reliable, dependable, somebody you know you can count on, somebody who can get you out of a jam if necessary, and that's Ted."
McCaskey praised Phillips for his steady leadership and for being a humble team player and consensus builder.
"He's the best boss I ever had," said McCaskey, who served as Bears senior director of ticket operations before becoming chairman in 2011. "Ted would take the most puzzling situation, and the decision he made and the explanation he gave for making that decision was so clear that you thought later, 'Why was I conflicted about it?'"
When Phillips retires, McCaskey said that he'll miss "his humility, his sense of humor, his ability to laugh at himself, his ability to not take himself too seriously, his ability to immediately put people at ease, and his ability to get to the heart of the matter faster than anybody else." McCaskey added that he has "a profound sense of gratitude for all [Phillips] has done for the Bears and for our family."
Phillips expressed mutual admiration, saying: "Working for the McCaskey family has been quite a blessing because they're so humble, and at the same time they fiercely want to win."
"Winning football games is everything, and if I had one regret it's that we haven't had a consistently winning team under my tenure," Phillips said. "I know there's been a lot of good, and that's what I reflect on. But working for the family and the trust they've shown in me has been amazing. I could have never scripted my career any better. I never planned on ever working in professional football, and I had that for 40 seasons. I'll always be grateful and I'm always going to be part of the Bear family."