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Second City co-owner Len Stuart dies at 73

Second City co-owner Len Stuart, whose seed money helped create “SCTV,” has died, according to Andrew Alexander, CEO and executive producer of the comedy and improv institution.

The Emmy-winning Mr. Stuart, who co-chaired the company, was “a brilliant entrepreneur,” Alexander announced in a posting on Second City’s website.

The cause was liver cancer. Mr. Stuart, 73, was semi-retired and living in Nassau, Bahamas, Alexander said. He died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“SCTV,” which aired from 1976-1981, helped launch the careers of John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Flaherty, Harold Ramis, Martin Short and Dave Thomas, among others.

In the mid-1980s, Mr. Stuart and Alexander bought the Second City from co-founder Bernie Sahlins.

“Over the course of four decades, Len has helped support the company through many defining challenges, including the most critical initial financing of the first seven episodes of ‘SCTV,’ ” Alexander said. “185 episodes later, ‘SCTV’ went on to become a seminal TV show garnering 13 Emmy nominations and winning two. Len was thrilled with the current expansion of the Chicago Second City Training Center and The Harold Ramis Film School and recognized the importance that this initiative would mean to young actors and future filmmakers.”

The stars of “SCTV” went on to long acting careers. | Provided photo
The stars of “SCTV” went on to long acting careers. | Provided photo

“He was a brilliant entrepreneur, loving father and loyal friend. He will be greatly missed.”

His death doesn’t mean any changes for Second City, Alexander said. “My son [Tyler] and his son, D’Arcy, are both working in the company, and both are doing a terrific job and both are in their late 20s,” he said. “There will be no change.”

Mr. Stuart, a native of Edmonton, Alberta, started out as a shipping clerk at a company with a name straight out of a cartoon: Acme Novelty, according to the book “The Second City,” by longtime Second City director Sheldon Patinkin.

He founded a lottery printing business that grew into a 2,600-employee company with $200 million in sales, according to his biography on the Second City website.

At one time, Stuart Entertainment was the world’s biggest maker of bingo paper and bingo equipment, Alexander said. “His innovations turned community bingo games into huge revenue centers for government and charity,” according to “The Second City” book.

In “The Second City,” Len Stuart said he left the “show” side of the business to Alexander. “I don’t interfere with Andrew’s role and leave the dealing with the people inside and the creative direction of the theaters to Andrew. . . . It’s been a good partnership.”

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, Angelika; a daughter, Jessica; and two brothers, Kenny and Tim, Alexander said. A memorial is being planned.