Seeking to strengthen ties with business community, Bears president joins state economic development panel

Kevin Warren was named Friday to a statewide public-private economic development organization’s board — another recent sign of how the Chicago Bears president and CEO is rubbing elbows and elevating his profile in the local business community as he seeks a public-private partnership and taxpayer dollars for a new stadium.

Warren is among three latest appointments to the Intersect Illinois board, which has added nearly a dozen members in recent months as part of a CEO-centered restructuring.

A spokeswoman for Intersect Illinois said current board members appoint new members to the panel, and no other entity has a role in the appointment process.

That would presumably include the office of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who is the group’s honorary chairman. Pritzker, however, does appoint the board chair; he named John Atkinson, managing director and chairman of the Chicago office of insurance broker Marsh, to the position in September.

Pritzker has been publicly critical of Warren’s pitch for state subsidies for a new Chicago lakefront stadium. The governor’s pulpit put up a major roadblock to the proposal gaining any traction during the General Assembly’s spring session.

The Chicago Bears have offered to put up $2.3 billion toward a new lakefront stadium, but want the rest of the $3.2 billion structure — as well as infrastructure redevelopment of the surrounding campus — to be covered with public funds.
Courtesy of the Chicago Bears

The NFL franchise’s original ask for a massive tax break at the 326-acre Arlington Heights property it purchased for a new stadium and entertainment district similarly failed to move at the state Capitol.

Warren and Pritzker haven’t officially discussed the plans, though Warren has met with the governor’s staff.

After setbacks in Springfield, the Bears president now is using the summertime to continue talks with politicians while he increasingly makes overtures to the business community in a bid to gain public support for funding a new stadium.

Warren keynoted the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting June 4; its CEO, Jack Lavin, was appointed to the Intersect Illinois board on May 28, and has been a major proponent of a new Chicago lakefront stadium.

Related Midwest developer Curt Bailey was appointed to the Intersect board in December, just before he and Chicago White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf lobbied lawmakers for subsidies for a new ballpark at The 78 redevelopment in the South Loop.

On Tuesday, Warren addressed the Lincoln Forum at the Union League Club of Chicago, where he reiterated recent talking points of Chicago having few active “cranes in the air,” and that the city was “losing out” having never hosted a Super Bowl, Final Four or other mega-sporting events.

Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren addressed a Lincoln Forum luncheon Tuesday at the Union League Club in downtown Chicago.
Christopher Placek/

“If you don’t have cranes that means you’re not building. If you’re not building, you’re not growing. If you’re not growing, you fall behind,” Warren said during Tuesday’s luncheon.

“There is an amalgamation here of culture, passion, food, music, dance, art, the people. This is real life here in Chicago,” he added. “This is the greatest city on the planet. We just need to make sure we remind ourselves of it, and we need to make sure that we act accordingly.”

On Friday, he said in a statement he was honored to accept Intersect Illinois’ invitation to join its board and was “focused and eager to provide tangible value to the work that will be done now and in the future to continue the growth and vibrancy of the great state of Illinois.”

Also appointed Friday were: Michael Sacks, chairman and CEO of asset management firm GCM Grosvenor and the head of the Chicago host committee for the Democratic National Convention; and Smita Shah, president and CEO of SPAAN Tech, a Chicago engineering and construction management firm.

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