Local Obituaries

‘Nightly Business Report’ anchor Paul Kangas dies at 79

On-camera colleagues for years, Linda O’Bryon (left) former executive vice president and executive editor, and Paul Kangas (right), co-anchor and financial commentator, discuss a news package to air on their WPBT-2 show, “Nightly Business Report,” on Feb. 10, 1998.
On-camera colleagues for years, Linda O’Bryon (left) former executive vice president and executive editor, and Paul Kangas (right), co-anchor and financial commentator, discuss a news package to air on their WPBT-2 show, “Nightly Business Report,” on Feb. 10, 1998. Miami Herald file

Paul Kangas, the main anchor of the PBS “Nightly Business Report,” developed such a rapport with viewers over his 30 years with the made-in-Miami TV program, some would trust him with just about anything.

As news of Kangas’ declining health spread, Linda O’Bryon, founding “Nightly Business Report” executive editor and the original co-anchor who shared that duty with Kangas for years, began to reflect on their professional moments together. She remembered a particular caller, a woman in her mid-90s, who Kangas went out of his way to help.

Once a week, O’Bryon said, this woman would call into WPBT’s North Miami studio and ask to speak with Kangas. She couldn’t see too well and she didn’t trust anyone to tell her what her stocks were doing. So every week, Kangas would take her call after filming his segment and go over her portfolio of stocks with her.

Her stocks turned out to be worth a couple million dollars.

The point, O’Bryon, said, is that someone reached out to Kangas and it didn’t matter who it was. “I think that sort of speaks volumes for how he was so trusted by people who really depended on this information — whether they were investors or not,” she said.

He had enormous appeal to viewers. He was able to take a complex subject and make it understandable. He had that voice and wonderful sense of humor.

Linda O’Bryon, former co-anchor, executive editor of “Nightly Business News.”

Kangas built a sizable national audience for the economic news program and helped earn “Nightly Business Report” its only Emmy, for coverage of emerging trends in China. He had lived in Aventura since the mid-1970s and died Tuesday at 79 from a series of health complications, including Parkinson’s and advanced prostate cancer, his stepson Mark Elieff said.

“He was a kind, generous man who went out of his way to help people who were on the way up,” Elieff said. “Some people don’t want to give away their secrets.”

One who watched, and learned, was Tom Hudson, now the vice president of news and a special correspondent for WLRN radio. Hudson replaced Kangas on the “Nightly Business Report” after Kangas stepped down from his anchor role on Dec. 31, 2009 — 30 years after initially joining the program as its stock-market commentator.

Whenever I would interview Paul on WINZ and later on KNX I would always make it a point to wish him the best of good buys. He got a kick out of that. He was a pioneer business broadcaster, totally authoritative, knew his subject very well and was truly the best in our business.

Frank Mottek, host of ‘Mottek On Money’ on CBS KNX 1070 Newsradio in Los Angeles. Mottek worked with Kangas at Miami’s WINZ 940-AM in 1981.

“Paul was a pioneer of business news on television. When he and ‘Nightly Business Report’ began in 1979, investors had to wait until the next morning’s newspaper for closing stock prices. His nightly stock market reports still resonate through today’s ubiquitous market data,” Hudson said.

Even technological advances, like stock apps on cellphones and the internet, couldn’t topple Kangas.

“He would tell a story that even after real-time stock quotes were available online, a viewer would regularly call Paul for closing price for AT&T because she wanted to hear it from him,” Hudson said. “I feel lucky that I was able to share the anchor desk with Paul Kangas, even if it was only for a few weeks, including a ‘NBR’ tradition — a black-tie broadcast on New Year’s Eve.”

Kangas, respected for his warm demeanor, intellect and his fast-paced, fact-packed stock summary reports on air, managed with cheat sheets that he’d make before going on camera, Elieff said. “He did it all off the top of his head; there wasn’t a script.”

Producer Wendie Feinberg Fisher, former vice president and managing editor of “Nightly Business Report,” was part of the team with Kangas that won the show’s only Emmy. She marveled at Kangas’ abilities — “a consummate professional, smooth and clear and understandable and just terrific on the air.”

Kangas, who was born in Houghton, Michigan, and who earned his broker’s license at New York University Stern School of Business, only stymied one group of people: the service responsible for WPBT’s closed captioning. “Someone was sitting in a room typing it in and they close-captioned everything but Paul’s segment. The reason they didn’t is he went so fast, crammed in so much information, so many details, so many facts, the caption people couldn’t keep up with him,” Feinberg Fisher said, laughing.

“He was always very frugal,” she added. “He drove this old, beat-up car and used to laugh in the newsroom that when he filled it with gas, it would double in value. That was so typical of him. He was careful with his money but so generous with his time and care and concern for everybody. That is what made him a special, big, warm, fabulous man.”

We close with Kangas’ signature sign-off, the one that endeared him to a national audience of more than 500,000 viewers nightly:

“I’m Paul Kangas, wishing all of you the best of good buys.”

Kangas is also survived by his granddaughter Mia Elieff. A memorial is in the planning stages.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen