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2HRS2GO: The ideal Chief Yahoo

    COMMENTARY--Want to lead the world's most popular Web site?

    As anyone who pays attention to the Nasdaq knows by now, Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) is looking for a new chief. Tim Koogle will kick himself into the chairman's seat and let someone else handle the next phrase of Yahoo's existence. Analysts might have to start addressing a Chief Yahoo! by a name, instead of a pair of initials. "TK, I was wondering about your overseas expansion..."

    Plenty of folks are wondering why Yahoo couldn't keep a lid on Koogle's departure until a replacement could be found, but that may have been impossible, given the intense spotlight shined on Yahoo at all times. When recruiters start calling around to ask folks if they want to lead Yahoo, word will get out.

    So what kind of criteria are the headhunters at Spencer Stuart ("not Spencer Stuart & Associates," noted a PR flak who sounded rather tired of fielding questions about Yahoo) using to find a CEO? The head of the executive search firm's Global Internet Practice has yet to return my phone message from today, but that's OK, I'll just make up some guidelines.

    "Transition year" is how Yahoo's CFO Susan Decker describes 2001. "Turnaround situation" might be a better description for a company whose share price has fallen more than 90 percent, expects near-term revenue to fall as much as 25 percent year-over-year and whose prospects for improvement aren't immediately apparent.

    So we need someone who can turn around bad situations. Let's see...

    Al Dunlap? Somehow, I don't think Yahoo can use scorched-earth tactics on its own operations and, uh, aggressively work the books back to a growth situation.

    Ray Lane? He garnered a reputation for cleaning up the act of Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) and helping set it on a steady growth curve. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison may feel his former No. 2 gets too much credit, but the company's overall success during Lane's tenure is undeniable.

    But Lane isn't a media guy. Neither was Koogle, but Yahoo has reached the point where it is considered a major media company, so it probably could use someone experienced at navigating those waters.

    AOL Time Warner (NYSE: AOL) Co-COO Bob Pittman sounds like the ideal choice. After he joined AOL in 1996, the company went from being a prominent online service to the pre-eminent Internet content and distribution force in North America. But he says he doesn't want the Yahoo job, and who can blame him? He's already the leading choice to take over AOL when CEO Gerald Levin steps down.

    Other names tossed around include a former Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) executive, TV network bosses, and some current Yahoo executives.

    Forget 'em all.

    I have the perfect man for Yahoo. This guy is a media veteran, with a wide range of experience. He's been successful everywhere he's been, and yes, he's a turnaround star. If you want talent, hey, we're talking a bona fide Nobel Prize nominee. Really.

    Meet the next Chief Yahoo:

    Jerry Lewis.

    His resume speaks for itself. Media savvy. Lots of international contacts, with an especially strong connections in Lewis-loving France, which also happens to be a country that has generated many problems for Yahoo. A few doses of Cinderfella will make those French judges forget all about auctions of offensive memorabilia. Heck, France will probably give him another award on the spot.

    As the longtime national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Nutty Professor has plenty of experience running a large, nationwide organization. And as we all know from those telethons, he's great at raising additional capital.

    More than anything, Yahoo needs a bigger roster of solid partners. Who wouldn't want to do a deal with Jerry Lewis? Who wouldn't trust a man nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?

    Need a turnaround specialist? Lewis was once considered the epitome of un-funny acting. Now he's an elder statesman, winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award and a comic genius held up as the prototype for Jim Carrey.

    He has the background, and he'll bring the kind of buzz that Yahoo shareholders fondly remember. You can't go wrong with him because he embodies everything that comes to mind when you think of a Yahoo. 22GO>