Phil Blake was born in Evanston, Illinois. He received a BA in international relations from Brown University and an MBA in finance from Northwestern University. He was involved in publishing throughout much of his career, serving as president of Madison Newspapers and publisher of the Wisconsin State Journal from 1993–2000. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1966-1970. He has worked on behalf of many community causes, including the Madison Chamber of Commerce (former director and chair) and United Way of Dane County (former treasurer and director). Currently his civic board activities include Edgewood College (trustee and former chair). He also is a member of Town & Gown and the Downtown Rotary. He and his wife Kit have three sons and live in Madison.