CNBC is apparently talking with Louis Rukeyser, who hosts a well-known financial talk show on PBS, about the prospect of starting a new program on the cable news channel.
"We have been talking with him about future opportunities," said CNBC spokeswoman Amy Zelvin. "Thats all I can confirm for you."
Rukeyser, who for 32 years has hosted "Wall Street Week With Louis Rukeyser," will be fired by his partner, Maryland Public Television (MPT), after a contract dispute turned ugly last week, said Jeff Hankin, an MPT spokesman.
Now, Rukeyser is looking to start up a new program on another network. During an episode of "Wall Street Week" that aired Friday, Rukeyser reportedly said he is planning to host a different weekly television show.
It was unclear whether Rukeyser was in talks with other networks. Officials at Fox News could not be reached, and spokeswomen for CNN and CNNfn said the network was not discussing a new show with Rukeyser as the host.
No one, meanwhile, was picking up the phone at Rukeysers MPT offices.
With a loyal audience of 5 million viewers, Rukeysers program has gained a reputation as one of the best sources of financial analysis on TV. It has also developed a mystique among public relations professionals and mutual fund executives who regarded appearing on the show as a quick way to earn credibility among investors.
The program featured a brand of pithy commentary that has become Rukeysers trademark. And it included a discussion of the weeks financial news with one guest, a member of the business community, who was hand-picked by the shows executive producer of 20 years, Rich Dubroff.
Spots on the program were coveted among mutual fund executives, partly because Dubroff earned a reputation as a stickler who was particularly choosy about which executives would make guest appearances. In an interview with MFMN last summer, Dubroff estimated that, of the shows 52 guests each year, only 15 were mutual fund executives.
The trouble between Rukeyser and MPT began last week when the station announced that it had partnered with Fortune magazine to create a new version of the program called "Wall Street Week with Fortune." In revamping the program, the PBS affiliate said it would relegate Rukeyser to the post of "senior commentator" and hand the host spot over to Fortune editorial director Geoffrey Colvin and a yet-to-be named co-host.
Rukeyser resigned in protest when he heard the news. He was, however, bound by his contract to continue hosting the show through June 28, which until Friday was expected to be his last show.
But Hankin said Fridays episode of "Wall Street Week" will be Rukeysers last. MPT will fire the 69-year-old journalist after he made references to the imbroglio -- and a new program that he would host elsewhere -- during last weeks taping, he said.
"He will not be appearing on the show anymore," Hankin said. "Were disappointed that he used Friday nights show to air his contract dispute and to promote the new venture. And its disappointing that he chose to use what will obviously be his last appearance on Wall Street Week to end such a fine 32-year run on such a sour note."
MPT will now air the show without Rukeyser. "We will continue it, just as we have when Mr. Rukeyser was on vacation, until the new show is ready to go," he said.
Public relations representatives said today that they were disappointed to hear that Rukeyser would be leaving the program. But Hedda Nadler, president of the New York public relations firm Mount & Nadler, said a new financial program, if Rukeyser starts one, would be a boon for companies hoping to market their funds by placing executives on news shows.
"This is perhaps another venue," said Nadler, who has helped a half-dozen clients appear on Rukeysers program in the past five years. "This is a potential positive to have another resource on television."
Nadler, who in an interview last year called Rukeysers show "the Holy Grail" for executives, said she wouldnt be surprised if the fund industry rallied en masse around a new Rukeyser program. But she continued, "That isnt to say they may not also rally around the new Wall Street Week that includes Fortune. I dont think you have to choose sides here."
Should Rukeyser take his show to CNBC, he will be continuing a relationship with the cable network that he forged in 2000. On the night of what would become a hotly contested presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, he guest-hosted a live CNBC special called "Your Money, Your Vote With Louis Rukeyser" which examined the elections impact on the economy. He has also appeared as a guest on several CNBC news reports, Zelvin said.