Bill Seidman: Remembering a Man of Integrity

CNBC employees are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and Chief Commentator Bill Seidman. Here, we pay our respects to this kind and honorable man, and invite you to do the same at the bottom of the page.

Bill Seidman
Bill Seidman

CNBC President Mark Hoffman:
"Bill Seidman was a warm, wonderful, brilliant man who had the incredible ability to make the most complex issues understandable and accessible. He made hundreds of appearances on CNBC since 1991 and always brought incisive intelligence and spirit to his commentary.

"Bill did some of his best work on CNBC during the current financial crisis focused on solutions drawn from his vast experience. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends around the world. Bill’s passing is a tremendous personal loss to CNBC."

Power Lunch Anchor Bill Griffeth:
I knew Bill Seidman for more than 20 years. He was a dear friend and a man of integrity.

Two vivid memories:

First, most of the people I knew who landed important government jobs tended to "change." They only read the party line when they were interviewed on TV and failed to say what they were really thinking.

Not Bill Seidman. I first interviewed him in 1988 during the Savings and Loan crisis when he was still head of the FDIC, and his answers to the tough questions were as candid as if we were talking privately in a living room. How refreshing that was!

I can't think of another public official who had that same quality.

Second memory: Back in 1992, CNBC asked the two of us to interview Ross Perot before he declared his candidacy for president. It was one of the first national interviews Mr. Perot did, and what a time we had with him. By the end of the interview, Mr. Perot was angry about the questions we had asked, and Bill and I were angry about the answers we got.

Just a few months ago, Bill and I shared a good laugh about that interview.

One last thought: I never—repeat, never—saw Bill Seidman without a smile on his face. I will miss him dearly.

Reporter Jane Wells:
I met Bill Seidman once when he was jetting around the globe and made a stop in Los Angeles. He came to the CNBC bureau here for an on-air appearance. As he sat in the make-up chair (wish I'd taken a picture!), he asked me about myself and my family.

I told him we'd recently returned from a vacation in Nantucket. He asked me where we stayed, and I told him we rented a little ramshackle cottage by the beach. Bill said, "Next time, stay at my house. I insist." I never took him up on the offer, as we never made it back. But I was surprised that someone who was nearly a stranger to me would so generously (and seriously) open up his home without hesitation.

Assistant Managing Editor Jim Connor:
Bill Seidman was the youngest 88-year-old I've met. I had covered RTC and the workout of the S&L's in 1990 for CNN and met him then. About a year ago, I asked him how he'd solve the subprime and foreclosure crisis if he was still running FDIC. He said he'd try to get Congress to agree let FDIC and the Federal courts appoint temporary special masters -- hundreds of them -- in every federal bankruptcy court, give them all a standard set of instructions on how to modify the loans, and let them have at it.
Bill said it would take a while, but it would be fair, everyone would know where they stood, and the number of vacant houses in the country would be kept to a minimum.

Would that plan have worked? Well, having Bill's enormous credibility behind it would have given it a big head of steam. After all, he was the guy who ran RTC—a mammoth program—and brought it in ahead of time and under budget.

He was unfailingly courteous to everyone, and filled with the rich experience of a long and active life. Bill Seidman didn't spend a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror.

Market Reporter Bob Pisani:
In the summer of 1990, the real estate business was in disastrous shape, and much of it was due to unsound real estate lending by savings and loan.

I had just been hired as the Real Estate Correspondent for CNBC. My first assignment? Cover the RTC auctions—and Bill Seidman. The Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) was designed to sell off the assets of savings and loans that had failed.

They pioneered "equity partnerships" to help sell off real estate assets. Private investors acquired interests in pools of assets, but the RTC also retained interest in the pools, and as the assets were sold off, the government was repaid.

Those early auctions were confusing, exciting...and very well attended! Fact is, it worked. The government got its money back. And Seidman was in charge of the whole operation. He was friendly, informative...and a gentlemen.

And he remained so. No matter how wild the debate got around him, Seidman was always calm, always informed, always the voice of reason. A true eminense gris.

Even those who disagreed with him had nothing but good things to say about him, because he was one of those rare figures that commanded respect. He will be missed.

Senior Editor Lori Spechler:
Bill Seidman was one of my favorite guests at CNBC—smart, savvy, funny and accessible. He was passionately moral and raged against those that he considered morally corrupt. He was a great man and a good friend. He will be missed by all who knew him.