L. William Seidman, 88, who led the United States out of the savings-and-loan crisis as head of the government agency that seized hundreds of thrifts and sold their assets, died yesterday.

He died in Albuquerque, N.M., after a brief illness, according to an article posted by CNBC, which employed him as a commentator.

Mr. Seidman was, among his many roles, managing partner of the accounting firm founded by his family, the top economic adviser to President Gerald Ford, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and chief commentator at CNBC.

He led the FDIC from 1985 to 1991, as rising interest rates, deregulation, changes in tax law, and bad real estate loans triggered thousands of bank and thrift failures. He worked with Congress on 1989 legislation that created the Resolution Trust Corp. to solve the mess.

Mr. Seidman, as FDIC head, became chairman of the RTC, which was given until the end of 1995 to accomplish the massive job.

It "combined all the best aspects of an undertaker, an IRS agent, and a garbage collector," he wrote in his 1993 memoir. "Each savings and loan arrived with records in disarray, key personnel gone, lawsuits by the hundreds, and a management that was still mismanaging or had departed and left the cupboard bare."

He stepped down from the FDIC and RTC in October 1991 and began his television career at CNBC. The RTC shut down at the end of 1995.

Lewis William Seidman was born on April 29, 1921, in Grand Rapids, Mich. His father, Frank, had come to the United States from Russia as a child and became a multimillionaire through Seidman & Seidman, the accounting firm he founded in 1910 with his brother, Maximillian.

In 1950, Mr. Seidman joined Seidman & Seidman and was managing partner from 1968 to 1974. Under his tenure, the firm - which today is BDO Seidman L.L.P. - became one of the 10 largest public accounting firms in the United States.