Gary Garfinkel, Co-Head, Content Acquisitions at Showtime Networks, has died. Garfinkel passed away from an illness early Friday morning at his home surrounded by his family, Showtime said in a statement. He was 55.

“Gary was one of the most warm and welcoming people I’ve known, and was beloved by everyone who worked with him at Showtime over the past 25 years,” said David Nevins, President and CEO, Showtime Networks Inc. “He was a great warrior and advocate for our company and worked hard to bring the best content to our service. In particular, many stand-up comedians credit Gary for giving them the early exposure that made their careers. He played a key role in cementing Showtime as a major premium network, and all of us who worked with him valued his taste, his counsel and his integrity. We will miss him terribly.”

Along with Kent Sevener, Garfinkel was responsible for the evaluation, negotiation and acquisition of feature films, documentaries, stand-up comedy, specials and music programs for all of Showtime Networks’ services. Garfinkel was integrally involved with programming, business development, digital media and specialized programming for on-air destinations that highlight documentaries, science fiction and horror. He’s credited with dramatically increasing stand-up comedy on the network, expanding the portfolio to 39 comedy specials in 2012, under the “Laugh Out Loud” on-air banner.

Joining Showtime in 1993, Garfinkel previously served as SVP Film Acquisitions, focusing on content strategy and acquisition for SNI’s channels and services. In that role, he negotiated first-run theatrical output and library deals with the major studios and a multitude of licensing deals with independent suppliers. He also built programming models for the development of new channels and significantly increased the volume of acquisitions for Showtime on Demand and the network’s authentication service Showtime Anytime.

Prior to joining Showtime, Garfinkel worked at Sony Pictures Entertainment as an International Business Analyst and in New York at Salomon Brothers Inc. as a Foreign Exchange Analyst, while also attending New York University Stern School of Business. He received a B.S. in Finance from Boston University.

“On a personal level, I have a wonderful job that I love to do,” Garfinkel told Beverly Hills Magazine in 2014. “It becomes fulfilling and more meaningful when I meet people who say they enjoy watching the network. And I feel really good when someone says that after having a crummy day they went home, watched some Showtime and were in better spirits afterwards. Or that they watched a fascinating documentary and couldn’t wait to talk about it. A few people have even told me that they were new to L.A. and without many friends, so they were watching TV a lot to keep them company…as you can imagine, that’s a story that really resonated with me. Being a part of the team that makes Showtime an important destination for millions of people is what gives me purpose in the job.“

In lieu of flowers, the Garfinkel family is suggesting donations in Gary’s name to The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University and the UCLA Brain Cancer Research Fund.