NEW YORK -- As senior officials of the United States Olympic Committee prepare to select a president to succeed Robert Helmick, two candidates have emerged as the leading contenders -- one to complete Helmick's term, the other for the subsequent four years.
Helmick, a Des Moines lawyer who resigned Wednesday, had more than a year left to serve.
The favorite for the interim period appears to be William Simon, 63, the former U.S. secretary of the Treasury. He served as USOC president from 1981 through the 1984 Los Angeles
Michael Lenard, 36, a lawyer in Los Angeles who has been a USOC vice president since 1989, has generated enough early support to make him the leading choice to follow the interim president through the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
The first step in the succession process will occur tomorrow in Colorado Springs. The USOC executive committee is expected to appoint a panel to identify one or more candidates for the presidency on an interim basis.
The final selection would be determined Nov. 2 by a vote of the 120-member USOC board of a directors.
Around the same time next year, a similar process would produce a full slate of officers to stand for elections to four-year terms.
Helmick had intended to run for a second four-year term next year, but resigned under pressure, generated by questions about his business dealings while president. Earlier this month, he acknowledged that he had served as a paid consultant to several groups with ties to the Olympics.
Simon has run his own merchant banking firms for the past six years. He has maintained his ties to the Olympic committee as a nonvoting member of the executive committee and chairman of the Olympic Foundation, managing an investment portfolio.
He has gained significant support from those USOC officials who believe the organization needs instant credibility, from a president with a national reputation and proven record.
"A lot of people called me," Simon said in a recent interview. "They've said, 'the organization needs a person well-known internationally and domestically, a man of integrity, and that man must be you.' "
Simon said that because of Helmick's situation, the next president "must restore integrity and stability" to the organization, particularly at a time when corporate support and public confidence in the Olympic ideals might be wavering.
John Krimsky, the USOC's chief fund-raiser, said he was unaware of any sponsors preparing to withdraw or curtail support. At the same time, he said, they were watching the transition closely.
"Concern has been expressed by significant corporations," Krimsky said. "They want to see us resolve this problem and resolve it quickly."
Simon said he was not interested in the presidency beyond next year but that he would serve in an active role for the short term. "Everything Bill Simon does, he's hands-on," he said.