Can the turnaround specialist who put the bite back into Krispy Kreme and fresh spark into Enron chart a course for Leo the Lion?

That’s the question hanging over Stephen Cooper since last week’s news that Harry Sloan was being moved aside as CEO of MGM to give yet another topper a crack at sorting out the storied studio’s grand vision. The exec faces the daunting task of sorting out MGM’s crushing $3.7 billion debt load.

And that question’s just the tip of the iceberg. With all of the incarnations, permutations and transmutations of the Lion over the past 40 years, even close observers have a tough time keeping track of just what assets Leo has and what ambitions it’s been pursuing.

In the past decade alone, toppers from Alex Yemenijian and Chris McGurk to Sloan and Mary Parent have variously ramped up and scaled back pic production at the studio. Tom Cruise, who came aboard with producing partner Paula Wagner to reinvent the United Artists banner in 2006, still officially has ties to MGM, though it’s hard to discern what they mean on a practical basis.

In short, Cooper’s appointment raises more immediate questions than it answers. There are so many unknowns that MGM might consider posting its own FAQ to address the top ones.

MGM last week gave broad assurances that there is a plan. But among the most pressing questions awaiting answers are these:

  • Can Cooper find funds amid the global credit crisis? It took Steven Spielberg nearly a year to close the $825 million in financing for DreamWorks Studios to reincarnate itself as an independent, so what does that bode for Lion?

  • What will Cooper sell? MGM has a library with 4,000 titles, but the decline in DVD sales and rentals amid the recession and a shift to VOD makes this far from the optimal time to be pushing vault value. The library generates about $500 million in revenues annually but debt service eats up much of that.

  • Will MGM still fork out half the budget for “The Hobbit” films? And what of James Bond?

  • What happens next with Epix, the premium TV channel partnership that MGM announced with Viacom and Lionsgate in March?

  • What is MGM at this point? It’s a private company with several owners: Sony, TPG, Providence, DLJ Management and Quadrangle. (Comcast sold its interest.) Sony has ownership position. So what is Sony’s involvement going forward?

  • What does the exec shuffle mean for production? As Cooper tries to straighten out the books, it’s doubtful that his priority is revving up production. But last week Parent and others at the studio insisted that it’s full-steam ahead for development and production.

  • What’s next? MGM has several films in the can and its release slate for 2010 includes “Hot Tub Time Machine,” “Cabin in the Woods,” “The Zookeeper” and remakes of “Red Dawn” and “Poltergeist.”Films in development include remakes of “Robocop” and “Death Wish” and an adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s spy thriller “The Matarese Circle.”

Amid all the questions, one thing seems certain: The studio has one film for release this year, which is suddenly getting extra attention: its remake of 1980 hit “Fame.”

The $18 million musical is a co-production with Lakeshore Entertainment, aimed at the tween-teen-young-adult demo that lifted Disney’s “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” to more $250 million in worldwide B.O.

Lacking the marketing might of Disney and featuring a cast of mostly unknown players, the pic will be hard-pressed to match “HSM 3” numbers. But any kind of respectable performance will provide a respite from the avalanche of uncertainty surrounding MGM.