Nearly one year after Louis Rukeyser last appeared on the Friday night financial show that bears his name, cable network CNBC said yesterday that he has told them he will not return and asked them to shut down the program.

"Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street" will cease production "by December 31," the network said in a statement.

Rukeyser announced in May that doctors had found cancer in his back after performing back surgery; at that time, CNBC said he was on medical leave and guest hosts would fill in until his return.

Yesterday, the 71-year-old Rukeyser said in a statement that he is "still recuperating from serious complications that have taken much longer than seemed reasonable over the past year." He did not elaborate, nor did a CNBC spokeswoman.

"Under the circumstances I have asked my friends at CNBC to suspend production of 'Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street' at the end of its run later this year," he said.

Rukeyser last appeared on the show on Oct. 31, 2003 -- about 18 months after its debut.

"He has been a financial institution," Michael Holland, a New York fund manager who has appeared on Rukeyser's TV shows since 1990, told CBS.MarketWatch.com yesterday.

He said he was relieved that the show would not go on without Rukeyser. "No one can replace him," Holland said. "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."

Before debuting on CNBC, Rukeyser for 32 years was host of the most popular financial program on television, PBS's "Wall Street Week With Louis Rukeyser."

In March 2002, Maryland Public TV, which produced the show, announced that it would be put out to pasture when Rukeyser's contract was up that June, to be replaced by "Wall Street Week With Fortune," setting the stage for one of the most exciting broadcasts in the history of financial-news television programming.

Rukeyser was offered a gig as commentator on the new show -- an offer he refused. That Friday, Rukeyser opened "Wall Street Week" by telling his millions of loyal fans that he had been "ambushed" by public television and that he was developing a new, rival program. He also revealed, on the air, that "Wall Street Week" was a "major cash cow" for public television, costing a mere $2 million a year to produce while bringing in about $6 million in national underwriting. "And that doesn't include massive local underwriting!" he added for good measure.

"I want you to rise out of your chair," Rukeyser told his viewers, "not to shout, 'I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!' but to . . . write or e-mail your local PBS station saying you heard Louis Rukeyser is still going to have a program and you'd like to see it.

"I promise you that if enough of you do that, it will do the job."

MPT responded by firing him, effective immediately. Early that April, Rukeyser announced his CNBC series, getting the last laugh by arranging for it to be rerun on PBS stations. "Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street" is carried by more than 160 PBS stations.

"He is a true original and we, like his millions of fans, will deeply miss his wit, wisdom and our time together," CNBC President Pamela Thomas-Graham said yesterday in a statement. "We send him all our best wishes for a full recovery."

Health problems have forced Rukeyser to give up his show on CNBC, which will cease production of it at his request.