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Tyree’s vision will be missed, but newspaper will follow course

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

With the death last week of company Chairman James Tyree, what does the future hold for The Beacon-News, the Chicago Sun-Times and the other newspapers in the Sun-Times Media group?

Jeremy Halbreich, chief executive of Sun-Times Media, said that Tyree’s devotion and vision will be missed, but that it will cause no changes in the media company’s strategy.

Tyree assumed control of the company that owns The Beacon-News, the Sun-Times and dozens of other Chicago-area newspapers in the fall of 2009.

Friends and business associates said Tyree was optimistic he could direct a turnaround for a company that went through bankruptcy. They also said Tyree was passionate that journalism in Chicago needed the Sun-Times and the suburban newspapers the company also controls.

Tyree, the chairman of Chicago-based Mesirow Financial, put together the investors who called themselves Sun-Times Media LLC and, with $5 million in cash and the assumption of $21.5 million in debt, rescued the newspaper group from bankruptcy.

Halbreich said the investors share Tyree’s belief in the future of Sun-Times Media and will step up to fill the leadership void.

“I expect they will meet soon to designate a successor, but everything else remains intact,” Halbreich said.

He said he does not expect the 10-member group will need an outside investor to provide capital or enthusiasm.

“It’s a very close group of investors. They have been very, very pleased with the company’s progress,” Halbreich said.

The purchase put the Sun-Times and its sister papers under a private company that does not report financial results. Halbreich said the company’s results are “running at plan.”

“We have good months and we have not-so-good months,” he said.

The company has continued to cut costs, ordering layoffs in editorial and non-editorial departments while investing in computer systems intended to make production more efficient.

Halbreich said Tyree “was thoroughly engaged in the direction and strategy” but left specifics to the newspaper managers.

One of Tyree’s co-investors is Richard Price, Mesirow’s president. Price has been running Mesirow day-to-day during Tyree’s battle with stomach cancer.

In a statement issued to Mesirow employees, Price wrote of his “heavy heart” and called Tyree “an amazing leader and great friend to so many.”

Price added, “Because of Jim’s leadership, he has prepared us well to band together and get through this difficult time.”

He was not available for comment on corporate successions at Mesirow or Sun-Times Media.

Halbreich said Price also is committed to the media business. “He worked as closely with Jim as anyone. He communicated with him daily and also has been in close contact with the other investors.”

Other members of the Sun-Times Media investment group are: W. Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz, owner of the Chicago Blackhawks; real estate investors Andrew Agostini, Ed Heil and Ed Ross; entrepreneur Kevin Flynn; insurance executives Michael Mackey and William Parrillo; attorney Robert Parrillo; and Mesirow Vice Chairman Bruce Young.

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