Jim O'Donnell: So Ted Phillips is set to retire from the Bears -- but why now?
WHEN ANY ODDITY OCCURS within the Chicago Bears, the immediate assumption is that it stems from some sort of uncorrected internal disconnect.
Friday was a day of enormous oddity for the organization.
In a meticulously crafted news release, the Bears announced that Ted Phillips -- the team's president and CEO since 1999 -- will retire at the conclusion of the 2022 season.
Eight months ago, chairman George McCaskey told all that Phillips, 65, would be the franchise's point person for due diligence and development of its plan to fulfill a $197.2 million land purchase agreement with Churchill Downs Inc. and build a new stadium in Arlington Heights.
NOW, SUDDENLY, PHILLIPS WILL NOT be around in any executive capacity for ribbon cutting, shovel turning or other celebratory rituals attendant to the team's escape from the city of Chicago.
The official Bears party line is the decision of Phillips was "months in the making" and prompted by "reflection" on how the executive prioritizes his time in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
That's a warm, cozy tale. But it flows against reasoned logic.
SPECULATION IMMEDIATELY whizzed through the Bear waves on sundry other possible reasons for the announcement of the impending exit of Phillips.
• He somehow screwed up the mechanics of the due diligence on Arlington Park -- Unlikely. The Notre Dame grad has shown a consistent capacity for professional growth since joining the Bears from the accounting firm of Ernst and Whinney in 1983 ... Any specialty expertise on the AP initiative -- and there's call for plenty -- could easily be farmed out and reportedly has been.
• A major source of money for the Arlington project found Phillips unacceptable to continue in his role with the team -- Most intriguing. As things are believed to stand now, the McCaskey family will need to borrow against equity to finance the Arlington Park redevelopment ... The specter of No. 1 minority partner Pat Ryan immediately comes into the frame ... Ryan and his heirs can structure large financial packages that the McCaskeys could learn from.
• The Bears are on the cusp of changing controlling ownership -- Always an old reliable that demands listing. Ryan -- the 85-year-old business, finance and insurance wizard -- looms to some like an angel of NFL deliverance ... The 100th birthday of Mrs. Virginia McCaskey is Jan. 5 and she is reported to be dealing with multiple infirmities of advanced age ... The McCaskeys now touch a fifth generation ... Forbes' latest estimate of the franchise's value is $5.8 billion ... Are the disparate parts about to enter harmonic convergence?
• Phillips is in ill health -- No signs of that from the former Arlington Heights resident.
ADDING TO THE INTRIGUE of Friday's earth mover was the fact that it came less than 24 hours after the Bears announced "an informational forum" about the Arlington Park move set for the gymnasium at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights Thursday night.
First question is: Will Phillips -- now the lame duck "point person" on the possible move to Arlington -- be in attendance?
It has been made clear that the forum at Hersey is solely a Bears event. Both the team and Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes have stated that "public feedback" is a desired component as the purchase agreement with CDI moves toward a final decision.
In a more minor oddity, the Bears confirmed Friday that there are no plans to livestream or broadcast the Thursday night forum. The Hersey parking lot opens at 5 p.m., doors open at 5:30 and the main event begins at 7 p.m.
Estimated capacity of the Hersey gymnasium for an event with floor seating is approximately 3,200.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis with no allowance -- according to the Bears -- for media credentialing.
Nationwide, literally millions are interested in what will be revealed. But that, apparently, is of no concern at Halas Hall.
WHILE TEAM MANAGEMENT elected to make the announcement of the Hersey forum on Thursday, it withheld news of Phillips' retirement until the Friday before a holiday weekend.
Historically, to more intuitive media observers, that sort of maneuver is intended to diminish the impact of any planned news.
The Bears also have no practices Saturday and Sunday in anticipation of their regular-season opener vs. visiting San Francisco on Sept. 11.
So Friday, Sept 2, 2022 -- yet another date to be filed under that bursting category of "Bears oddities."
With much more certain to come.
Jim O'Donnell's regular Sports and Media column appears Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.