The Best of Business

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1. Best Linkup
Nope, not AOL Time Warner. The top deal is German music and publishing giant Bertelsmann's pact with Napster, the buccaneering Internet service that lets Web users swap their favorite music without charge. Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Middelhoff broke with the music industry and agreed to give Napster a $50 million loan to enable its website to start collecting a monthly fee in exchange for unfettered — and legal — access to Bertelsmann tunes.2. Best Web Hype
Nothing beats the $39 million initial public offering of, an Internet portal partly owned by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing. Drawn by his reputation as a winner, 450,000 hopeful investors applied for shares. The offering ended up 669 times oversubscribed. The company has languished since and its share price has plummeted from a high of $1.97 to around 38¢.

3. Best Bankruptcy
The most welcome bust was that of Japan's Sogo department store chain, as the government resisted pleas for yet another big bailout. The failure indicated Tokyo is finally getting serious about putting its house in order. Maybe.

4. Best New Product
Announcement European consortium Airbus Industrie's A3XX is a worthy competitor to Boeing's aging 747. The new plane features 550 seats in a two-deck leviathan costing $230 million. Airbus already has 44 firm orders for the plane.

5. Best Government Action
Kudos to German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's decision to cut corporate levies from 40% to 25% and slash personal income taxes by 9% over the next five years.

6. Best Sales Prospect
Go long on Brazil's Procomp, whose electronic ballot boxes were used to count 118 million votes in recent elections without a single dispute or missing chad. Are you listening, Florida?

7. Best Hostile Takeover
U.K.-based Vodafone's purchase of German wireless firm Mannesmann tops the list. While some Germans tried to block the deal on grounds of nationalism, Vodafone ceo Chris Gent pulled off the biggest-ever merger by upping the price to $190 billion.

8. Best Telecom Strategy
It was a big year for Japan's NTT DoCoMo, whose i-mode mobile Internet service lets customers exchange e-mail, do their banking and make airline reservations on their cell phones. Ubiquitous in Japan, the company is setting its sights on Europe and the U.S., where it recently invested in AT&T Wireless.

9. Best Central Banker
Yet again, it's U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who is trying to negotiate a soft landing for America's overheated economy. If he succeeds, the U.S. slowdown could rein in growth without pushing the country into a recession. Greenspan also warned against "irrational exuberance" in Internet investing; it's not his fault that no one listened.

10. Best Foreign Import
Brazilian wonder Carlos Ghosn pulled off an impressive turnaround at Nissan. Sent in by Renault after it bought a stake in the stumbling Japanese car maker, Ghosn has whittled staff and revved up design, turning last year's $6.5 billion loss into a profit of $1.6 billion for this year's first half.

The Worst
Subpar CEO

DaimlerChrysler chief Jürgen Schrempp became the poster boy for dubious mergers after his $36 billion purchase of Chrysler in 1998. Not only is the combined company now worth less than Daimler Benz alone before the tie-up, but Schrempp's excuse that he didn't know the extent of the problems at Chrysler until it was too late seems hard to swallow from such a hands-on, gung-ho boss.