USOC will move fast to name interim CEO

Posted: Monday, March 03, 2003

DENVER -- The last time a U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive resigned, it took a year to find a replacement. The organization can't afford that kind of delay now.

''We need to move quickly to fill the CEO position, but we must find the right person,'' USOC vice president Frank Marshall said. ''At this point, who would want this job?''

Lloyd Ward's departure Saturday -- after months of turmoil sparked by a conflict-of-interest investigation -- brings the total to eight CEOs and presidents for the USOC since 2000. Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell pressed for more resignations Sunday.

Campbell, part of a Senate committee investigating the USOC, called on chief operating officer Fred Wohlschlaeger and human resources manager Rick Mack to step down, saying they didn't stop Ward's questionable behavior. Both were hired by Ward.

''To me, they've been a party to the indiscretion,'' Campbell said. ''They go back with Lloyd Ward a long time before he came here. They were either a party to it or they should have stepped up and said 'We shouldn't be doing this.'''

As for Ward's replacement, interim USOC president Bill Martin will work with the USOC's executive committee to find an interim CEO, perhaps as soon as this week. Martin himself only came aboard last month, when president Marty Mankamyer quit under pressure.

The early list of candidates for the interim CEO role includes former USOC president Bill Hybl, Salt Lake City Organizing Committee executive Fraser Bullock, USOC vice president Paul George, and former USOC executive director Harvey Schiller.

Donald Fehr, head of baseball's union, 1984 Los Angeles Games organizing chief Peter Ueberroth, and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner also have been mentioned as potential USOC saviors.

Steinbrenner wasn't available Sunday to comment on the USOC, and phone calls to Fehr and Ueberroth weren't immediately returned.

Campbell called Hybl his choice for CEO.

''This is going to have to be a person that can command trust from the employees that are down there, from the executive board, from the athletes themselves, and more importantly than that, from the U.S. Congress. I think Bill has all that,'' Campbell said Sunday. ''I think he would see the bigger picture.''

Hybl's name pops up every time a president steps down, but he has repeatedly said that he is not interested. USOC president from 1991-92 and 1996-00, he is now CEO of the Olympic Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports U.S. athletes with grants.

With the Athens Games less than 1 1/2 years away and a Senate committee calling for a major restructuring, USOC officials want to put the past three months of inquiries and resignations behind.

The International Olympic Committee would like that, too. The IOC leadership, in Demark for an antidoping conference, has been monitoring the USOC situation closely.

''It's starting to look at little bit like the Keystone Cops,'' senior IOC member Dick Pound said Sunday.

The crisis has raised questions about the USOC's privileged revenue-sharing status with the IOC and cast a cloud over New York City's bid for the 2012 Summer Games.

''It's not good for the Olympic movement in the United States, and if it's not good for the Olympic movement in the United States, it's a big concern for all of us,'' IOC vice president Kevan Gosper said.

Ward's downfall began late last year, when he was accused of trying to steer Olympic business to a company with ties to his brother. No deal was completed, but Ward was reprimanded and stripped of a $184,000 bonus following an ethics investigation.

The furor rose in past months, with daily accusations, the resignations of six top officials and a threat by a top sponsor to pull a multimillion-dollar endorsement deal.

Ward resigned as CEO of Maytag in November 2000 in what the company described as a disagreement with the board of directors over the company's strategic outlook and direction. During his 15 months on the job, Ward talked about moving Maytag's headquarters from Newton, Iowa and contracting out office work, which did not sit well with the company's employees.

Ward then became CEO of iMotors, an Internet seller of used cars, but that company folded just over three months after he started.

Ward did not receive a severance from the USOC, but was given a laptop computer and up to a year of medical benefits, Martin said.

''I think he did the right thing,'' Campbell said.



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