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Bears promote Karen B. Murphy to EVP of stadium development, COO

Longtime Bears executive Karen B. Murphy has been promoted to executive vice president of stadium development and chief operating officer. Murphy's passion for Chicago, drive to innovate and eagerness to break barriers will continue to fuel her commitment to the club.

Story by Gabby Hajduk

Karen B. Murphy is no stranger to the challenges and fulfillment that comes with being a woman leader in sports.

Murphy's career with the Bears has spanned over 25 years. She started as a controller in 1999 before being promoted to Chief Financial Officer in 2002 then senior vice president of business strategy in 2016. She was often the only female leader in meeting rooms, but she has never let that alter her path.

Murphy has drawn from her long lineage of strong women – including her grandmother who was asked to play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League — and embraced her role as a trailblazer inside Halas Hall. That mindset helped lead Murphy to another promotion at the Bears.

"I'm excited to continue to change the narrative," Murphy said. "And just like others have said, I want it to be where it's no longer a conversation. But I relish in being a mentor and I want to help cultivate those future female leaders. I love that role. So the fact that this also happened during Women's History Month is amazing.

"I have spent my whole career as the only woman in the room, but it never intimidated me. And actually, I took that as an opportunity to bring some diversity of thought. That's not easy, but I relished it."

Now as the organization's first-ever EVP of stadium development and COO, Murphy will collaborate with President & CEO Kevin Warren to drive forward the club's long-term vision and strategic objective of developing a new stadium.

"I am incredibly honored and excited to lead an operation that has the power to change the trajectory of this storied franchise and how fans experience the game of football in Chicago. I have always loved the game of football and the city of Chicago, and I bring that passion to work every day," Murphy said. "I have the privilege of continuing my work for a world-class team and alongside Kevin and the rest of the organization, to create and execute on a vision that brings a state-of-the-art stadium and Super Bowls to Chicagoland."

Murphy's leadership and counsel will extend across critical departments, including finance & accounting, stadium & event operations, building operations, information technology, purchasing and innovation.

"Karen is an exceptional and innovative leader and has been a positive force for both the Chicago Bears and the National Football League," Warren said. "When I joined the Chicago Bears in April of 2023, I had a primary focus on fortifying our front-office leadership team and cultivating a culture of exceptional talent, diversity, innovation and hard work. From the moment I met Karen, it was clear that she was an individual who would focus on being excellent every day and operate with a championship mindset. Karen will do an exceptional job as we work collaboratively on building a stadium for the Chicago Bears. I am grateful to our chairman George H. McCaskey and the entire McCaskey family for providing me with a platform to promote Karen to this well-deserved and critically important role that will positively impact the Chicago Bears franchise."

"Karen Murphy's promotion affirms her outstanding leadership, dedication and invaluable contributions to the Chicago Bears over the past 25 years," McCaskey said. "Her commitment to excellence has been instrumental in growing and shaping our business operations. The Chicago Bears family is excited to witness Karen in her new role."

While Murphy was born in Ohio and raised in Wisconsin, she's lived in Chicago for over 30 years. Her career in the city started in 1993 when she worked as a senior auditor at Ernst & Young Global Consulting Services until 1997. She spent the next two years in California as a corporate management senior auditor for The Walt Disney Company before making the move to the Bears.

Growing up in a family of sports fanatics, Murphy admittedly was a Packers and Wisconsin Badgers fan. When she flew from Los Angeles to Chicago for her first interview with the Bears in 1999, Murphy recalls memorizing "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" and every coach that ever worked for the Bears to show her commitment to the club.

Not even a year into her job did Murphy realize she converted into a Bears fan.

"In the first season that I worked for the team, I was up at our game at Lambeau Field," Murphy recalled. "We lost and I was so upset. It just hit me right then and there that the Bears are the team that I love. I had totally given up any Packer fandom because I was so emotionally upset that we lost to the Packers and that's when I knew. And that was in my first season. It was quick."

Creating her emotional tie to the Bears and to Chicago has helped Murphy nurture her love of learning and innovation as she aims to improve experiences for fans and for the city. Murphy has most notably accomplished those goals by helping oversee renovations to Soldier Field in 2003 and Halas Hall in both 2013 and 2019.

In her new role, Murphy remains committed to growing the Bears community as well as finding creative ways to elevate the club and provide new experiences for the fanbase.

"I think Chicago is honestly the most amazing city in the world just for its culture, for the people," Murphy said. "So being able to amplify both the city of Chicago and this historic team, which is built on innovation, is an incredible opportunity. I love trying to re-energize the innovative spirit that George Halas created. I feel that's one of my personal goals, is to keep that spirit alive and really continue to innovate."

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