Sun-Times boss, ISU grad Tyree dies at age 53
James C. Tyree, the Chicago businessman who helped lead Sun-Times Media Group Inc. out of bankruptcy, died Wednesday at age 53, company officials said.
Tyree died at a Chicago hospital following "an unexpected complication" from stomach cancer, according to Richard Price, president and chief operating officer of Chicago-based Mesirow Financial, a financial services company where Tyree was CEO, chairman and worked for more than three decades.
"Jim was truly one-of-a-kind; an amazing leader and great friend to so many," Price said in a statement. "He made an indelible impression on each one of us at Mesirow Financial, and our hearts are broken."
Tyree announced in October that he had stomach cancer and would undergo chemotherapy. Tyree also suffered from diabetes and had kidney and pancreas transplants in 2006.
In 2009, Tyree led an investment group that took the Chicago Sun-Times' parent company out of bankruptcy. Sun-Times Media, which also owns dozens of suburban Chicago newspapers and websites, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March of that year, following months of cost-cutting measures.
The company's troubles played during the 2007 federal trial of Lord Conrad Black, the CEO of the Sun-Times' former owner, Hollinger International. Black was convicted of siphoning millions of dollars from Hollinger. The media company was sold to the investors led by Tyree for about $26.5 million.
"I certainly believe this is a good business opportunity, though certainly very risky," Tyree told The Associated Press in a 2009 interview.
Among other concessions, Tyree asked unions to agree to lock in 15 percent pay cuts that were originally intended to be temporary.
"It was his vision and effort that brought our company out of bankruptcy and gave us all the bright future that we have today," Sun-Times Media CEO Jeremy Halbreich said in a memo to employees. "We will miss Jim's counsel and leadership."
Tyree, who grew up on Chicago's South Side, took classes at City Colleges of Chicago while in high school before earning a bachelor's degree at Illinois State University in three years. He also earned a master's from the school. He worked as a forklift operator and used academic scholarships and grants to pay for his education.
Tyree joined Mesirow Financial in 1980, beginning as a research assistant and working his way up. He was named president in 1990 and chief executive in 1992.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley appointed Tyree City College of Chicago chairman in 2000, a post he held for 10 years.
"As chairman of the board and former student of the Chicago City Colleges, he was a mentor to the students and a strong example of what can happen through hard work and perseverance," Daley said in a statement.
Tyree is survived by his wife and three children. No funeral plans have been announced.