Louis Rukeyser Dies at 73

Financial news pioneer Louis Ruyeyser has died. Also the longest running host on PBS until Maryland Public TV, which produced his weekly show for 32 years, decided to reinvent the wheel and dumped him in 2002 because he was too old in their view, causing the largest loss of income to local PBS stations ever, since well-off contributors decided that if the elite of PBS didn’t care about what they wanted to see, they wouldn’t give money to PBS. This has to be one of the biggest PR gaffes of this decade, and created great dissent in the PBS world. CNBC then offered to host him, with no ads during the show as Lou requested, and available for broadcast by PBS stations other than Maryland the next day. All I can find is the AP report (in many variations)

Louis Rukeyser, a best-selling author, columnist, lecturer and television host who delivered pun-filled, commonsense commentary on complicated business and economic news, died Tuesday. He was 73.

Rukeyser died at his home in Greenwich after a long battle with multiple myeloma, a rare bone marrow cancer, said his brother, Bud Rukeyser.

As host of “Wall $treet Week With Louis Rukeyser” on public TV from 1970 until 2002, Rukeyser took a wry approach to the ups and downs in the marketplace and urged guests to avoid jargon. He brought finance and economics to ordinary viewers and investors, and was rewarded with the largest audience in the history of financial journalism.

“He brings to the tube a blend of warmth, wit, irreverence, thrusting intellect and large doses of charm, plus the credibility of a Walter Cronkite,” Money magazine wrote in a cover story.

Rukeyser also won numerous awards and honors, including a citation by People magazine as the only sex symbol of the “dismal science” of economics.

“Our prime mission is to make previously baffling economic information understandable and interesting to people in general,” he once said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He was an educator.

Rukeyser quit “Wall $treet Week” and moved to CNBC in March 2002 rather than go along with executives’ plan to demote him and use younger hosts to update the format.

Maryland Public Television, which produced the show, said it was firing him after he used “Wall $treet Week” to complain about his producers. He contended the station could not fire him because he was never its employee.

Less than a month later, he debuted with “Louis Rukeyser’s Wall Street” on financial network CNBC. The new show also aired on some PBS stations.

Once while answering a viewer’s letter on investing in a hairpiece manufacturer, he said, “If all your money seems to be hair today and gone tomorrow, we’ll try to make it grow by giving you the bald facts on how to get your investments toupee.”

After a market slump, he considered changing the name of the show to “Wall Street Wake.”

“We have in America a bad tendency that things have to be either serious or fun,” he once told the AP. “Whereas in real life, this isn’t true. The teachers we all remember in high school and college were not the ones who put us to sleep. I don’t think any of us should apologize for not being dull.”

Disclaimer: I credit Lou for getting me interested in the markets. I realize now that it was finance-light, but he got me started in an age when most still had the post-Depression scare of their parents foremost in the mind. I also have watched his last show on PBS, which is a total classic as he talks about being ambushed by the PBS executives telling him that this was his last day. His last day on PBS was on the order of “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,” a major attack on the management of Maryland Public TV. A large reduction in contributions to PBS nationwide followed, though Lou always stated his disagreement was with Maryland Public TV (They got a better offer from Fortune Magazine – the obits are being nice).

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Richard Gardner
About Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner is a “retired” Navy Submarine Officer with military policy, arms control, and budgeting experience. He contributed over 100 pieces to OTB between January 2004 and August 2008, covering special events. He has a BS in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.

Comments

  1. Steve Verdon says:

    Yep, it was Rukeyser that got me into markets and economics as well. I agree it wasn’t in depth stuff, but it sure was accessible to just about everyone. Sad news.

  2. DJ says:

    Rukeyser did it for me as well….I have fond memories from the seventies and eighties of watching first Washington Week in Review , then Wall Street Week, followed by in later years, the McLaughlin Group…this was back in the day when the only commentary shows on TV were these three, Meet the Press and Face the Nation…and featured intelligent conversation about issues and not a lot of posturing and shouting….those were the days

  3. […] Louis Rukeyser Dies at 73Outside Beltway – Financial news pioneer Louis Ruyeyser has died. Also the longest running host on PBS until Maryland Public TV, which produced his weekly show for 32 years, decided to reinvent the wheel and dumped him in 2002 because he was too old in their view […]