1. Disney's Problem Has Minnie Solutions

Disney's

(DIS) - Get Report

board said this week that the search to replace CEO Michael Eisner would be "thorough, careful and reasoned."

Which is, of course, where we come in.

Yes, it's time to announce the winner of the Five Dumbest Research Lab's latest reader contest: "Who Should Be Disney's Next CEO?"

But before we reveal the lucky winner, let's run through some of the runners-up.

Eisner

detractor Steve Jobs, CEO of

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

and

Pixar

(PIXR)

, was a popular choice.

So was Donald Trump, or one of his Apprentices.

Martha Stewart came up a lot; under her regime, says Jarret Blum, attractions would include "Space-Savers Mountain" and "It's a Small Cell After All."

Other CEO candidates emerged from the presidential campaign: George W. Bush, for example. John Kerry. Ralph Nader. Michael Moore.

With no one suggesting John Edwards, maybe it was bipartisanship that made Dick Cheney an oft-mentioned nominee: "If that man doesn't scream 'cuddly' and just embody the magic of Disney, I don't know who does," wrote Chris DiPasquale.

Cartoon characters were all the rage, too: Mickey Mouse. Minnie Mouse. Scrooge McDuck. Dan Rather. ("He has exhibited a Pinocchio-esque gift for telling tall tales," says Dennis Craddick.)

And our winner?

Reader Carol Ames wins the prize with her nomination of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who last week proposed measures eliminating popularly elected governors and increasing his hold on Parliament.

V-l-a, d-i-m...
We have a winner

Were Putin to replace Eisner, "Disney employees would suffer less centralization of power and less micromanagement," writes Ames. "Disney stockholders would have someone with a better regard for the voting process."

2. The Saucier's Apprenticeship?

What's nuttier: Martha Stewart hiring

Survivor

creator Mark Burnett? Or Wall Street ascribing any value to the deal?

On Wednesday evening, see,

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

(MSO)

said reality-TV guru Burnett will advise and consult with the company, in part to develop a prime-time network TV series featuring Martha Stewart.

Everyone involved has high hopes, of course. "This is exactly the kind of 'creative entrepreneurialism' that our audiences and distributors expect from us," said MSO CEO Sharon Patrick. Uh, we guess so -- though we remember that Martha Stewart's last notable piece of creative entrepreneurialism landed her a five-month vacation from her

seven lively cats.

Burnett, meanwhile, praised Stewart's "impeccable good taste" -- the same way, we suppose, that a lion might praise an antelope's healthy-looking body before ripping it apart with its teeth.

And the market went crazy. On Thursday, MSO's shares jumped as high as 18% on the news, settling in at $17.03, up $2.05.

Certainly people are free to believe that Martha Stewart's company is worth more than where it was trading Wednesday, but we just don't see the synergies here. Burnett's genius, demonstrated in shows such as

Survivor

and

The Apprentice

, is in ripping the veneer off of polite society to reveal the feral backstabbing below the surface.

I Will Survive
Martha meets reality TV

Martha Stewart's genius, however, lies in the opposite direction -- taking awkward, angst-seething social events and applying the veneer of polite society. From hand-made wedding invitations to Christmas cookies, she's all surface.

Who would want to watch a show about uncovering the ugly realities behind the Martha Stewart mystique? All those killjoys, probably, who can't wait to explain how some magician really didn't saw a woman in half. Or folks who tune into

Discovery

looking for a documentary about how sausage gets made.

So put Burnett and Stewart together and what do you get? We're guessing it's a press release, dated a year from now, that alludes to "creative differences" between the two.

3. A Poem as Lovely as a Consent Decree

On Wednesday, the

Securities and Exchange Commission

accused

Computer Associates

(CA) - Get Report

and three former top executives of cooking the company's books from 1998 to 2000.

Which means, of course, that we've got another entry for our

Dictionary of Alleged Accounting Fraud

.

Yes,

as we have written before, you can't have an alleged accounting fraud without having code words for that alleged accounting fraud.

You don't want alleged co-conspirators going around saying, "Hey, Bill, can you help me out with the alleged accounting fraud today?"

It's cumbersome to say all that. Plus, it's an uncomfortable reminder that you are, indeed, allegedly committing accounting fraud.

Earlier entries in our steadily expanding dictionary of alleged terminology, to refresh your memory, include "fairy dust," sprinkled on

HealthSouth's

(HLSH)

books; "hardness," indicating number-goosing reserves at

Nortel

(NT)

; and the quarterly ritual known as "close the gap" at

WorldCom

, now

MCI

(MCIP)

.

Computer Associates' new contribution to this dictionary is the expression "35-day month."

That, says the SEC, was how some CA employees referred to a key part of CA's alleged strategy for meeting Wall Street's sales expectations for a given quarter: improperly booking certain sales in that quarter even though the sales actually closed in the early days of the following quarter.

In its complaint, the SEC describes a methodical process, after the close of several quarters, in which CA personnel backdated contracts, used misdated documents and pressured salespeople to close sales that could be used to juice the prior quarter's numbers.

Calendar Whirl
CA scores a big month

The 35-day month. We like that. A lot. And because we were recently reading the poetry of

Ogden Nash, we were inspired to write a rhyme on the subject. Here goes:

Thirty-five days have September,

March, June and December.

Gosh, there's loads of

drang und sturm

At quarter's end in a software firm.

4. I Think That I Will Never IAC...

We at the research lab are never wrong. We're just early.

For the latest evidence of that, let's turn the clock back to November 2003, when

the research lab called attention to a puzzling situation at Barry Diller's

InterActiveCorp

(IACI)

(the name of which has since been changed to the infinitely more mellifluous "IAC/InterActiveCorp").

What in heck, we wondered, were John Malone and Dob Bennett --

Liberty Media's

(L) - Get Report

chairman and CEO, respectively -- doing on IAC's board of directors?

Sure, Liberty is a major shareholder of IAC's. But, as we pointed out, Liberty had just taken majority control of home shopping giant QVC. And QVC, of course, is the chief rival of IAC's own HSN home shopping network.

IAC, however, was comfortable with having the QVC folks hanging around -- an attitude that struck us as a little odd. "The guy who owns Macy's is happy to have the guy who owns Gimbel's on his board," we wrote. "Huh?"

Fast forward to last Friday, when IAC announced that Malone and Bennett had resigned from IAC's board. "Because QVC was acquired by Liberty, and QVC and Home Shopping Network, a subsidiary of IAC, are in similar businesses," said IAC, "IAC and Liberty agreed it would be best for Dr. Malone and Mr. Bennett to resign to avoid any potential antitrust or other regulatory concerns."

Oh. Now they tell us.

So 10 months ago IAC insisted there was no problem having Malone and Bennett on the board, and now it say yes, there's a problem. Is there a problem with that? All the company will say is that they had a long time to decide whether the Liberty guys should get the heave-ho. "Under applicable laws," IAC told the research lab, "we had a year following Liberty's acquisition

of QVC to determine how we wanted to handle the situation."

Yes. It took us two months to smell something wrong, but it took IAC a year to acknowledge the odor.

5. Makes You Wonder Bread, Doesn't It?

On Aug. 30,

Interstate Bakeries

(IBC)

said it wasn't able to release itsdelayed 10-K for 2004 because of all sorts of uncertainties aboutfinancial results, debt compliances and the company's ability tocontinue as a going concern.

This week, a lot of those uncertainties got cleared up.

Business is indeed rotten, and the parent company of Wonder Bread andHostess

filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday.

Interstate has no shortage of problems, the company indicated this week. Contributing to its "liquidity issues," said the company, were declining sales, a high fixed-cost structure, excess industry capacity, higher costs for ingredients, and a whole lot more.

Mind you, that's just what Interstate Bakeries is admitting to.

The Wall Street Journal

theorizes that IBC's big misstep was messing with time-tested bread recipes in the hopes of capturing some of

the legendary shelf life of Hostess Twinkies.

Go figure. IBC is in trouble, perhaps, because its products' shelf life is too long. Meanwhile,

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

(KKD)

-- whose products have a famously short shelf life -- isn't doing too well, either. Maybe it's time for everyone to say the heck with it and start selling potato chips instead.

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