FRED SMITH AS DEFENSE SECRETARY? 

Word from FedEx is that Founder/CEO will probably stay put.

The name of FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith -- thanks wholly or in part to Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist -- has surfaced as a possible cabinet nominee of President-elect George W. Bush's; in particular, the legendary Memphis entrepreneur may be under consideration for the job of Secretary of Defense.

"I think he'd make a fine Secretary of Defense," said U.S. Senator Bill Frist, acknowledging the possibility in a conference call with Tennessee reporters Monday. Frist, Senate liaison with the Bush campaign organization and the newly named chairman of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, was fresh from a meeting on Capitol Hill between Bush and congressional leaders of both parties.

Frist's statement came in response to a reporter's suggestion that Governor Sundquist, chairman of Bush's Tennessee campaign, had urged Smith's name upon the president-elect.

FedEx spokesperson Jess Bunn said he had fielded several press inquiries about the prospect Monday morning but that, to his knowledge, Smith -- who has recently had heart-bypass surgery -- was not interested in taking a cabinet job, nor had he been offered one.

"That could change as I get more information, but as of now I can't confirm that there's anything to it," said Bunn, when first asked about the speculation.

Later, Bunn supplied this as the company's formal statement on the matter: "Mr. Smith would be honored to be considered for a cabinet position. However, he is completely focused on the growth and success of FedEx and has a passion for continuing to lead one of the premiere companies in the world."

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