Led group that took Sun-Times out of bankruptcy

James C. Tyree, the Chicago businessman who helped lead Sun-Times Media Group Inc. out of bankruptcy, died Wednesday. He was 53.

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 chairman-CEO and worked for more than three decades.

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 were displayed during the 2007 federal trial of Conrad Black, the CEO of the Sun-Times’ former owner, Hollinger Intl. 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% 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.”

A lifelong Chicago resident, Tyree earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Illinois State U.

He is survived by his wife and three children.

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