James C. Tyree, chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial and the chairman of Sun-Times Media, died Wednesday afternoon after battling cancer for several months. He was 53.
Mr. Tyree announced in October that cancer had been found in his stomach and that he would undergo chemotherapy. Earlier this month, Tyree was hospitalized with pneumonia.
Mr. Tyree, who also battled diabetes, survived a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant in 2006.
A lifelong Chicagoan with a history of civic involvement, Mr. Tyree, grew up in the Beverly neighborhood on the South Side, and attended St. Barnabas elementary school and Marist High School.
He took classes in the City Colleges of Chicago system in high school — a move he said enabled him to get a bachelor's degree in three years from Illinois State University, from which he also has an M.B.A.
Mr. Tyree paid his way through college, getting an academic scholarship and grants and working a summer job as a forklift operator. During the school year, he worked for the ISU campus recreation department.
He joined Mesirow, a diversified financial services firm, in 1980. Beginning as a research associate, he was named president of the firm in 1990, chief executive officer in 1992 and chairman and chief executive officer in 1994.
Under his leadership, Mesirow acquired some 50 firms, such as the U.S. Corporate Recovery practice from KPMG LLP, Dann Insurance and Boockford & Company, and Stein & Company, a real estate organization.
In 2000 — decades after he took City Colleges of Chicago courses in high school — Mayor Daley appointed him board chairman of the City Colleges system, a position he held for 10 years.
In October 2009, Mr. Tyree led an investment group that took the parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times and several suburban publications out of bankruptcy.
“In addition to being one of the most prominent businessmen in Chicago, Jim was a tireless supporter of Sun-Times Media and all of our newspapers,” said Jeremy L. Halbreich, Sun-Times Media chief executive officer. “It was his vision and effort that brought our company out of bankruptcy and gave us all the bright future that we have today.”
Survivors include his wife, Eve, a daughter, Jessica, 11, and twin 9-year-old sons, Matthew and Joseph.