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Jim Shaw, CEO of Shaw Communications, waits to address the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. He passed away on Jan. 3, 2018.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Jim Shaw, the colourful and plain-spoken former chief executive officer of Shaw Communications Inc., has died.

The Shaw family announced his death Wednesday, saying the 60-year-old "died peacefully surrounded by family and friends" following what was described only as "a brief illness."

Mr. Shaw's father, JR Shaw, founded the Western Canada cable empire in the 1960s and it remains controlled by the Shaw family through its ownership of 78 per cent of the company's voting shares.

Jim Shaw took over from his father and was CEO for a dozen years starting in 1998. He led the company through a period of remarkable growth as it won digital TV and internet subscribers and entered the home phone market.

During his tenure as CEO, Shaw's annual revenue climbed to $3.7-billion, up from $646-million when he first took over.

JR Shaw praised his late son's leadership of the company, in the family's statement, and expressed his sorrow.

"With a very heavy heart, JR says, 'I am saddened at Jim's passing but grateful for 60 years with my son who shared the same family values as [my wife] Carol and I. Jim is loved by so many for his unique sense of family, his courage and willingness to take on all challenges with dignity and commitment."

Jim's younger brother, Brad Shaw, who is Shaw's current CEO, talked about the depth of his loss, in a separate statement issued by the company. "As a family, our hearts are heavy with sadness. I have not only lost a brother, but a great friend and mentor. Our lives will not be as complete without hearing Jim's laughter or getting the benefit of his counsel or his insight."

Mr. Shaw first joined Shaw in 1982 as a construction worker and cable installer before working his way into more senior positions.

Phil Lind, a long-time executive and board member at Rogers Communications Inc., worked closely with Jim Shaw over the years as the cable industry often fought the regulators as a united force.

Mr. Lind remembered Mr. Shaw in an interview as a "brilliant, very, very creative and hardworking" executive who was "astonishingly good at pulling off the deals he did."

He credited the former CEO with "transforming the Shaw empire," building it into a place of prominence in English Canada shared only by Rogers, which dominated in the East.

"Jim fought big and he produced. He didn't have much formal education, but that didn't matter a bit. He was a true entrepreneur," Mr. Lind said. "He was kind of his own man, that's for sure. He was tough, but he was warm, and he was thoughtful and incredibly generous."

In a statement, Edward Rogers, chair of Rogers Communications, praised his former rival. "We have known Jim for many years and we are truly saddened to hear about his passing. We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Jim's family, friends and to everyone at Shaw. Jim was a brilliant man and a fierce competitor. He was a confident entrepreneur who had a transformative and lasting impact on the Canadian cable landscape. He will surely be missed."

Darren Entwistle, CEO of Telus Corp., Shaw's main rival in Alberta and British Columbia, said Wednesday in a statement he was "deeply saddened to hear of Jim's passing and my thoughts go out to the entire Shaw family." Mr. Entwistle added, "Jim was a terrific competitor throughout a sea change that transformed Canada's telecommunications and cable sectors. He leaves behind a lasting legacy for our industry and for Western Canada."

Telecom consultant Mark Goldberg called Mr. Shaw "one of the most colourful leaders in Canadian business."

Brad Shaw took over from his older brother in late 2010, two months earlier than expected. Jim Shaw's planned departure was abruptly moved up after a lunch CIBC hosted in Vancouver during which he reportedly belittled investors and behaved erratically. In 2008, he took time off work due to health problems related to bleeding ulcers and though he did not go into detail on the affliction, he told The Globe and Mail during a 2009 interview that it prompted "a regeneration of Jim," prompting him to lose weight and to begin eating better.

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