LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Comcast SportsNet Chicago president Jim Corno Sr. died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 66.
Corno's career began at KPLR-TV in St. Louis, beginning in the mailroom at the station, according to Jeff Nuich, Comcast SportsNet Chicago senior director of communications. Corno worked his way up, joining Post-Newsweek Stations as operations manager at WTOP-TV in Washington, D.C., and eventually became program manager at WDIV-TV in Detroit.
He came to Chicago in March 1984 to run SportsVision, a regional network. What began as a pay TV service featuring the White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls grew into Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
"Jim was such a nice man," Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. "He was a real pioneer and visionary and leader of the whole regional sports network concept. His contributions to Chicago and everything he did to make sure we got those organizations built and getting more games to more fans -- he was a behind-the-scenes man and a very important person in Chicago sports history."
The Cubs also issued a statement, saying, "Jim Corno Sr. was a good friend to the Cubs. For 15 years, Jim was a true partner -- launching two networks that brought more Cubs games to the Chicago market. Jim spent his life at the top of the cable business which, at times, can be a bruising endeavor.
"Jim always rose to the occasion and got further with affiliates, Leagues, sponsors and advertisers by using common sense, trust and delivering on his promises. He will be missed by many. Our thoughts and prayers are with Carolyn, Jim Jr., Christina, his extended family and many friends."
White Sox and Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf also issued a statement.
"How do you best remember someone like Jim Corno?" Reinsdorf said. "The average fan may not immediately recognize Jim's name, but I think perhaps no one else in this city has done more over the past four decades to impact the Chicago sports landscape.
"No matter the situation, Jim always thought about the sports fan first," Reinsdorf said. "Whether the game was baseball, basketball or hockey, Jim's focus and obsession was always on how to improve the experience for the viewer sitting at home, watching and rooting for his or her favorite Chicago team. Jim thought that way because Jim was that Chicago fan, sitting on his own couch or in the television studio celebrating the key victories and suffering the tough losses.
"Jim was a tremendous businessman and partner, with his prescient understanding of sports television often guiding our decisions and direction over the years," Reinsdorf said. "Much more importantly, he was a proud Chicagoan, donating countless hours to important causes like the March of Dimes. Jim was a terrific father, grandfather and husband, a mentor to many in the industry, a father-figure to staff at Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and also a dear, close friend. This is a deep personal loss to me and for many in the Chicago sports world. We all will miss our friend."
Cubs television broadcaster Len Kasper tweeted that he was "devastated" by the news of Corno's passing. Kasper said: "He was a great friend & mentor to me from day 1. WONDERFUL man."