Former Bears general manager Jerry Vainisi died Tuesday in Oak Park, Illinois, the team said. Vainisi was 80 years old.
He spent 15 years with the Bears and was general manager during the team’s 1985 Super Bowl championship.
His first job with the organization was as a controller in 1972. Vainisi then served as treasurer and in-house legal adviser before becoming CEO from 1983 to 1987. When Vainisi was general manager, the Bears were 47-17 years old, and until Jerry Angelo in 2001 they had no other executive with the title of general manager.
Vainisi hired current Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips as the team’s controller in 1983.
“I will always cherish the few years I spent with Jerry, and I am forever grateful for his decision to hire me as the Bears controller in 1983, which launched my 40-year career with the Bears,” Phillips said in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with him and his entire family.”
After his time in Chicago, Vainisi worked for the Lions and later helped build and lead football operations for the World League of American Football. Wainisi’s career continued after football, when he led Hinshaw & Culbertson’s sports and entertainment legal division in Chicago. He then bought Forest Park Bank before becoming its chairman and CEO.