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New Bears president/CEO Kevin Warren making 'incredibly smooth' transition

Bears president/CEO Kevin Warren
Bears president/CEO Kevin Warren

PHOENIX – Kevin Warren's first official day as Bears president and CEO is scheduled to be April 17. But the highly respected longtime executive has been transitioning to his new role since being hired in January.

Warren told reporters Monday at the NFL owners meetings in Arizona that he has been meeting regularly at Halas Hall with Bears chairman George H. McCaskey, general manager Ryan Poles and outgoing president/CEO Ted Phillips, who is retiring after 40 years with the organization.

Warren has been the Big Ten Commissioner since 2020. Prior to that, he spent 22 seasons as an NFL executive with the St. Louis Rams (1997-2000), Detroit Lions (2001-03) and Minnesota Vikings (2005-19).

"The transition has gone incredibly smooth," Warren said. "I think it's been flawless. 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, who is an attorney, initially entered the NFL with the Rams, serving as vice president of player programs/football legal counsel from 1997-2000 before being promoted to vice president of football administration. He earned a Super Bowl ring when the Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV.

“I’m a big believer that you have to be comfortable talking about winning a championship and not just talking about it but putting in the work to be able to do it.” Kevin Warren

Warren then joined the Lions as senior vice president of business operations and general counsel. He left Detroit in 2003 to return to his hometown of Phoenix to work for the international law firm Greenberg Traurig. In that role, he represented the Wilf family and Vikings ownership group in what became a successful $600 million deal to purchase the franchise.

Wilf later hired Warren to work for the Vikings. He served as executive vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer from 2005-14 and chief operating officer (COO) from 2015-19. In Minnesota, Warren was the NFL's highest ranking Black business executive and the first Black COO in league history.

As Warren joins the Bears, one of his primary goals is "to build a championship culture." To that end, he intends to meet one-on-one with every employee in the organization. 

"I'm a big believer that you have to be comfortable talking about winning a championship and not just talking about it but putting in the work to be able to do it," Warren said.

"I think the biggest thing that people will feel from me is that I want to be a champion. Collectively. And I want us to do it together. And this is not about force and coercion. This is about setting a vision, planning, working hard, being a leader, being supportive, supporting people individually, their families and just making this an environment … I want people when they wake up in the morning, whether you're a player, a coach, a staff member, even ownership, that you're excited to go work. And that's the environment I look forward to creating."

Entering the offseason with the No. 1 pick in the draft and ample salary-cap space, there was a buzz about the Bears at the Scouting Combine. And after they made a blockbuster trade and signed 10 free agents, they remain one of the most talked-about teams in league circles. 

"Even coming here for the meetings, it's something special with the Chicago Bears," Warren said. "This is not a normal environment of a team that won three football games [last] year. Most of the time that happens, you're in turmoil. But George is calm, Ryan is calm, coach [Matt] Eberflus is calm, I'm calm. 

"We're all connected and working together, and I think there's a sense around the NFL community that we have the right people at the right time in the right situation focusing on the right issues, and none of us have egos and that we're doing the right thing. I really love the energy we have developed and are building and I'm confident that we'll do well together."

Get an exclusive look at new Bears president and CEO Kevin Warren as he arrives at Halas Hall, tours the facility, meets with the media and more.

Once Warren officially begins his tenure as Bears president/CEO, one of his main focuses will be on the 326-acre Arlington Park property the team closed on Feb. 15. At the time, the Bears released a statement describing the move as another step toward realizing a new and exciting chapter while also cautioning that closing on the property didn't necessarily mean that a new stadium would be built on the site.

As COO of the Vikings, Warren played an integral role in all business, financial, legal and operational aspects related to the building of U.S. Bank Stadium. He was involved in the design, construction, business, legal and operational components of the new stadium, which opened in 2016 and hosted Super Bowl XXLI on Feb. 4, 2018.

"Fortunately, I've been through this process before," Warren said.

"That was a big part, to be able to close on the land. That was a big step. That remains our main focus from a stadium development situation. There's a lot of work to be done. I mean, when you close on land, that's really when the work begins. And so I'm looking forward to April 17 and still just been trying to transition, gather information and stay up to speed. But I'll really dive in once I start."

Warren's experience with the Vikings and U.S. Bank Stadium no doubt will greatly benefit the Bears.

"There are so many things I learned, but one of the things is you need to remain calm, that it's a journey," Warren said. "This is not something that you get done in a weekend. You have to be patient. You have to be creative. You have to create solutions [so] that there's a win-win-win for everyone involved.

"I think that one of the greatest attributes that George Halas had, that Mrs. Virginia McCaskey has, that George has, is the fact that we understand this is a long-term family commitment. I think George said in the press conference that they've owned the team for 103 years and their goal is to own it for another 103 years.

"The great thing about working with the McCaskey family is that they always do what's right, and not just for the Chicago Bears, really for the fans and everyone involved. That gives me comfort, is that as we work through this process, we'll do what's right, and I'm confident that we'll be successful, and people will look back on this journey and be proud what we've been able to do together."