George Goodman, a.k.a. TV’s ‘Adam Smith,’ dies at 83

‘‘Adam Smith’s Money World” won Emmys and aired on PBS from 1984-‘96.
‘‘Adam Smith’s Money World” won Emmys and aired on PBS from 1984-‘96.
Glen Martin/Denver Post/1981

NEW YORK — George Goodman — a journalist, business author, and television host who under the pseudonym ‘‘Adam Smith” made economics accessible to millions of people — died Friday at age 83.

Mr. Goodman’s son, Mark, said his father died at the University of Miami Hospital after a long battle with the bone marrow disorder myelofibrosis.

Starting in the 1950s, the elder Mr. Goodman had a long, diverse, and accomplished career, whether as a founder of New York Magazine, as a best-selling business author, or as the personable host of ‘‘Adam Smith’s Money World.”

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Known as Jerry to his friends, he prided himself on making arcane debates among economists and business leaders understandable, often using an anecdotal or irreverent approach to explain a complicated issue.

‘‘I have always believed that if you dramatize a story, you can make it comprehensible while at the same time maintaining a relatively high level of sophistication,’’ he once said.

‘‘Adam Smith’s Money World” was a multiple Emmy winner that aired on PBS from 1984 to 1996, with guests including Warren Buffett and Paul Volcker. He was also an executive editor at Esquire, a member of The New York Times editorial board, and a commentator for NBC.

Before his success in the business world, Mr. Goodman had written novels and worked as a screenwriter. He helped adapt his book, ‘‘The Wheeler Dealers,” into a 1963 movie of the same name starring Lee Remick and James Garner.

Mr. Goodman was editing the monthly journal The Institutional Investor when his first nonfiction book, ‘‘The Money Game,” was published in 1968. Among the year’s top sellers and read for decades after, ‘‘The Money Game’’ offered a colorful take on the financial markets that added a human element to the laws of finance. One popular character was an oversized investment guru known as Scarsdale Fats.

‘‘As far as I know, it was a couple of the Boston institutions that hung the nickname on him, which shows that Boston institutions are not as stuffy as they used to be,’’ Mr. Goodman wrote. ‘‘One of his enthusiasts described him as ‘glob shaped.’ Minnesota Fats is an ectomorph, and Sydney Greenstreet would blow away in the Scarsdale Fats ratio! ”

‘‘The Money Game’’ was his first book as ‘‘Adam Smith.” He wanted to keep Wall Street from learning his identity (the game was up soon after publication) and named himself after the 18th-century economist.

George Jerome Waldo Goodman grew up outside St. Louis and graduated from Harvard University in 1952.

He leaves two children and three grandchildren. His wife, actress Sally Brophy, died in 2007.