NFL experience is mandatory

Next Packers president is probably already working within the league

The next president of the Green Bay Packers? It could be anyone, even a woman, says Bob Harlan, who has stayed on as team chairman until an 11-member search committee finds a person suitable to take over where John Jones fell short. The Packers announced at their annual shareholders' meeting today at Lambeau Field that the search for a new team president is on.

Along with the help of Chicago-based executive search firm Spencer Stuart, and input from Harlan and ex-team treasurer John Underwood, the Packers will conduct what will probably be an exhaustive search for a president. Jones was in line to become the team's 10th president until he was placed on a leave of absence in late May. He formally resigned from his position last Friday after settling a contract buyout due to "health reasons," though, "management issues" was the first reason given to fans by the team for his dismissal.

Whatever the real reason, the Packers, who avoided saying Jones' name during the 57-minute meeting, are moving forward seeking the "best possible person to lead the franchise into a challenging future," said Peter Platten, speaking on behalf of the organization's executive committee.

When all is said and done, however, look for the Packers to hire an individual, most likely a man, with extensive front office experience in the NFL. Harlan and Platten hammered that home during a press conference after the shareholders' meeting today. It would be difficult to think that someone outside of the NFL would step in to lead one of the league's most storied franchises.

Harlan said that the search committee has a list of 12 to 15 names. Some are in-house candidates such as Andrew Brandt (vice president of player finance), Jason Wied (vice president of administration) and Vicki Vannieuwenhoven (vice president of finance). Former Packers executive and current first-year Tennessee Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt, a Wisconsin native, figures to be a leading candidate for the position.

If none of the above are offered the job, it seems certain that someone from another successful NFL team, such as New England Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli, will get the job.

"One of the things that would be important to me, from a personal standpoint, is someone who has a great understanding of the National Football League," said Harlan, who hired Reinfeldt in the early 1990s with the thought of promoting him to president of the team. "The owners, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the revenue sharing will be a huge subject in the next few years. I think the more familiarity that somebody has got in that area would make it easier for him to step in and move forward with the job."

Reinfeldt left the Packers in 1998 when Mike Holmgren went to become coach and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. He remained in the front office in Seattle until this past spring when he was hired by Tennessee.

"I share what Bob is concerned about and that is NFL experience and understanding of the labor agreement is very important," said Platten. "When you're talking about knowledge of the community, and the fans and shareholders. That's a big part, too. We would want to be sure that there is a good knowledge there. There are quite a few characteristics that we're looking at right now, and the search firm will interview all 11 of the people on the search committee and will give us a composite of what everybody thinks."

The search firm, which has conducted executive searches for other pro sports teams, hopes to have a consensus of all 11 board members by mid-August. From that point on, the Packers will begin interviewing candidates. If all goes well, the team should have a new CEO in office by this fall.

"The business of professional football is getting so complex that we felt we had to take a look throughout the country for the best person. That best person may be right here, but we don't know that yet."

Credit the Packers for looking under every rock. Though fans may not realize it, the next president of the Packers will be key to the organization's future. The team doesn't want to mess up, so count on it hiring an individual from within the league.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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