George D. Gould, a Wall Street financier who was a figure of calm in New York’s convulsive mid-1970s fiscal crisis and an original member of the state agency created to borrow on behalf of a nearly-bankrupt New York City, died on April 26 at his home in Palm Beach, Fla. He was 94.
His death was confirmed by his stepdaughter, Julie Frist.
Mr. Gould was at home one day in 1975 when Mayor Abraham D. Beame of New York called him after midnight to invite him to breakfast that morning. There, Mr. Gould was recruited to join the board of the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which New Yorkers were rushing to create to raise money and stave off bankruptcy.
Big M.A.C., as it became known, was established after banks and other financial institutions refused to buy more municipal bonds and short-term notes because, they said, the market was saturated and the city’s ability to repay its debt had become too precarious.
For decades, though, these institutions had reaped hefty fees from the city and become complicit in what amounted to its fiscal gimmickry leading up to the crisis.
Mr. Gould served as a member of the corporation for four years beginning in 1975. He became its chairman in January 1979, when Felix G. Rohatyn resigned to return to Lazard Freres & Co., the investment bank and advisory firm.
But Mr. Gould quit as chairman — a part-time, unpaid post — the following June, in part because he was irritated that Gov. Hugh L. Carey, who had appointed him, was still relying primarily on Mr. Rohatyn for advice on New York’s financial recovery. Mr. Carey asked Mr. Rohatyn to return as chairman after Mr. Gould resigned.
“As a board member,” said Eugene J. Keilin, a former M.A.C. executive director and chairman, in an email, “George was, even then, a kind of senior statesman, knowledgeable about the bond markets and a Republican, when we needed credibility with Rockefeller Republicans, who were not yet extinct at that point.”
Bipartisan support was needed in the State Legislature and Congress to win federal loan guarantees and other assistance to tide the city over during its crisis.
Stephen Berger, who was executive director of the Emergency Financial Control Board during the city’s fiscal crisis, characterized Mr. Gould in an email as having been “a steadying force, balanced, smart and calm.”