The Bears will embark on an exciting new chapter in their storied history Monday as Kevin Warren officially begins his tenure as team president and CEO.
Warren joins the Bears after serving as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference the last three years. Prior to that, he was a highly respected NFL executive for 22 seasons with the Rams (1997-2000), Lions (2001-03) and Vikings (2005-19).
Although Monday marks Warren's first official day on the job, he began the assimilation process shortly after being hired Jan. 12, meeting regularly at Halas Hall with Bears chairman George H. McCaskey, general manager Ryan Poles and retiring president/CEO Ted Phillips.
Warren told reporters March 27 at the NFL owners meetings in Arizona that "the transition has gone incredibly smoothly."
"I think it's been flawless," he said at the time. "Fortunately, I had this experience a couple years ago transitioning out from the Vikings to the Big Ten. And so really [I] tried to make sure that I brought in this environment, every time that I've seen someone transition or I've transitioned, to do it the right way."
Warren becomes the fifth president in the Bears 103-year history—following George S. Halas, George "Mugs" Halas Jr., Michael McCaskey and Phillips—as well as the team's first Black president and first president and CEO hired from outside the organization.
"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," George H. McCaskey said in a statement announcing Warren's hiring in January. "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, who is an attorney, first familiarized himself with the Bears in 1992 when he founded his own sports agency and represented defensive tackle Chris Zorich.
"Chris was my first client, and for the first year was my only client," Warren said in January at his introductory press conference, which Zorich attended, "which afforded me the opportunity to really learn and understand truly what the Chicago Bears stand for."
Thirty-one years later, Warren takes over as the franchise's president and CEO.
"Many people have asked me, 'Why the Bears? Why [at] this time?'" Warren said in January. "It's because of the challenge, the opportunity. I trust Ryan. I trust coach Matt [Eberflus] that we're going to do things the right way.
"We're not going to take shortcuts. We're going to build an incredible franchise. I came here to win championships, to win the NFC North, to win the NFC, to win the Super Bowl, to help shepherd and lead a stadium development project, to embrace our alumni, to embrace our history and tradition, and to embrace the absolutely incredible Chicago Bears fans. That's why I'm here."
One of the most significant items on Warren's to-do list with the Bears will be the Arlington Park stadium development project. The organization has purchased the 326-acre property in suburban Arlington Heights but has yet to commit to building a new stadium on the site.
As Vikings chief operating officer, Warren was instrumental in the design, development and planning of U.S. Bank Stadium—which opened in 2016 and hosted Super Bowl XXLI on Feb. 4, 2018—as well as Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, the Vikings' training facility.
Rick Spielman, who worked with Warren for 14 seasons with the Vikings as vice president of personnel and general manager, told ChicagoBears.com that Warren "was an integral part of getting those two things accomplished."
"He's one of the top executives I've ever been around—not only from his organizational skills and leadership skills, but what he is able to accomplish in that leadership role," Spielman said. "He's an excellent listener to different opinions on what's going on and then makes the right decisions after he gathers all the information. So from that standpoint, he's outstanding. But he's even a better person when you get to know him."
Broncos general manager George Paton shares a similar perspective after working with Warren for 13 seasons with the Vikings as director of player personnel, assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel.
"[The Bears] are getting an executive that empowers really the entire building, brings everyone together," Paton told ChicagoBears.com. "Kevin did an amazing job of bringing the entire [Vikings] organization together with his leadership. Just his demeanor, his personality, he's got a great way about him. He's a great listener, like all great leaders. And he has a great way of making everyone feel like they're part of the decision. He does a great job of listening and collaborating and coming up with great solutions."