Anyone as physically afflicted as Jim Tyree was — diabetes,failing vision that required a series of surgeries, a transplant of his pancreas and both kidneys —can have no illusions about his own mortality. Tyree, chairman of Mesirow Financial, put together an investment group two years ago that saved the Sun-Times Media Group from oblivion. He saw, or claimed to see, opportunities in the bankrupt company that everyone else was blind to; he drove a hard bargain with the unions before he signed the papers, but he signed them, and the Sun-Times continued to publish and dozens of other titles besides.
I have to think that even before he was diagnosed last year with stomach cancer he understood that when, if, his newspaper chain returned to health there was a good chance he wouldn’t be around to see it. And he died Wednesday at the age of 53 with the renamed Sun-Times Media still beset, though CEO Jeremy Halbreich thanked him for the company’s “bright future.”
At least there’s been a future. Buying the company was a considered act of altruism and civic responsibility — in a city whose general indifference to the state of its media is a little astonishing. As a former Sun-Times reporter, I’m grateful to him. Perhaps Tyree felt compelled by the moral weight of borrowed time — an expression we should hope cannot now be applied to the Sun-Times.