President & CEO/Chairman & CEO: 1989-2008
Executive Committee & Board of Directors: 1989-2008
Chairman Emeritus: 2008-Present
Harlan made the tough and defining decisions necessary to establish a foothold for success and then oversaw one of the most remarkable turnabouts in NFL history. As president and CEO, Harlan reversed a 24-year free fall and turned the Packers into one of the league’s most successful franchises. Within two years after being elected president, Harlan boldly fired executive vice president of football operations Tom Braatz in the midst of another losing season. Then he moved quickly to hire Ron Wolf as general manager and vest in him full authority over the team’s football operation. Thus ended more than two decades of organizational inertia.
During Harlan’s 19 years as head of the organization, the Packers won a Super Bowl and became one of the NFL’s model franchises. He also put the franchise on firm financial footing for years to come as the driving force behind the redevelopment of Lambeau Field as a year-round destination. The project cost $295 million and was completed in 2003, but only after Harlan actively campaigned on behalf of a referendum that was approved by Brown County voters on Sept. 12, 2000.
Harlan also was president when the Packers conducted their 1997 stock sale. It was their first in 47 years and raised more than $24 million. Another weighty decision reached during his presidency was leaving Milwaukee after 62 seasons and moving all home games to Green Bay. At the same time, Harlan found a way to accommodate Milwaukee ticketholders. In addition to Wolf, Harlan also hired Ted Thompson as general manager in 2005. In all, Harlan worked for the Packers for 37 years.
“He hired good people and let them run it,” said Ron Wolf, Harlan’s epoch-making hire. “He was a man of his word. He said he was going to hire me to run the football operation and he wouldn’t get in the way, and he never got in the way.”
Harlan was elected president and CEO of the Packers on June 5, 1989. He became chairman of the board and CEO in 2006 and served until his retirement on Jan. 28, 2008. During the 18 years that Harlan worked in the Packers’ front office, he held the positions of assistant general manager (1971-75), corporate general manager (1975-81), assistant to the president – corporate (1981-88) and executive vice president of administration (1988-89).
Born Sept. 9, 1936, in Des Moines, Iowa. Given name Robert Ernest Harlan.
- Cliff Christl