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Louis Rukeyser, 73; Witty Host of Popular TV Investment Show `Wall $treet Week'

May 03, 2006|From the Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. — Louis Rukeyser, a bestselling author, columnist, lecturer and television host who delivered fun-filled, common sense commentary on complicated business and economic news, died Tuesday. He was 73.

Rukeyser died at his home in Greenwich, Conn., 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.

"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.

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

"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 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 an 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.

Rukeyser's last appearance on his CNBC show was Oct. 31, 2003, after which he went on medical leave for surgery to relieve persistent pain in his back. In May 2004, he announced that doctors found a low-grade malignancy during a follow-up exam.

Later that year, Rukeyser asked CNBC to end production of his show, which had continued with guest hosts. The PBS successor to Rukeyser's show struggled, too, and Maryland Public Television pulled the plug in 2005.

Rukeyser was born in New York on Jan. 30, 1933. He graduated from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1954, specializing in public aspects of business.

He was a political and foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun papers, chief political correspondent for the Evening Sun, chief of the Sun's London Bureau and chief Asian correspondent for the Sun.

He also worked at ABC News as a senior correspondent and commentator, serving as Paris correspondent and chief of the London bureau.

Rukeyser, who published bestselling books and newsletters, said he thought there was "a hunger in the American public for clear, believable, understandable, usable pocketbook information" on finance and economics.

He used puns that drew appreciative groans from his audience to help explain his often arcane subjects.

"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," Rukeyser once said while answering a viewer's letter on investing in a hairpiece manufacturer.

"He has been a financial institution," said Michael Holland, a New York fund manager and occasional Rukeyser guest. "He brought financial journalism to a new level with his trademarks of honesty, humor and fairness. He always looked at both sides of the issues. His only bias was toward optimism."

Information on survivors and funeral arrangements was not immediately available.

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