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Ken Lay dies at 64

Marketplace Staff Jul 5, 2006

HOUSTON (AP) – His lawyer says Enron founder Kenneth Lay hasdied.

Lay was 64. He and former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling wereconvicted in late May of defrauding investors and employees in the monthsbefore the company plummeted into bankruptcy protection in Decemberof 2001.

According to a secretary at his church, and another secretaryfor his lead criminal lawyer, Lay died in Colorado.

The cause of this morning’s death is said to have been a heartattack.

Nicknamed “Kenny Boy” by President Bush, Lay led Enron’smeteoric rise from a staid natural gas pipeline company formed by a1985 merger to an energy and trading conglomerate that reached No.7 on the Fortune 500 in 2000 and claimed $101 billion in annualrevenues.

He was convicted May 25 along with former Enron CEO JeffreySkilling of defrauding investors and employees by repeatedly lyingabout Enron’s financial strength in the months before the companyplummeted into bankruptcy protection in December 2001. Lay was alsoconvicted in a separate non-jury trial of bank fraud and makingfalse statements to banks, charges related to his personalfinances. He was scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 11.

Lay had built Enron into a high-profile, widely admired company,the seventh-largest publicly traded in the country. But Enroncollapsed after it was revealed the company’s finances were basedon a web of fraudulent partnerships and schemes, not the profitsthat it reported to investors and the public.

When Lay and Skilling went on trial in U.S. District Court Jan.30, it had been expected that Lay, who enjoyed great popularitythroughout Houston as chairman of the energy company, might be ableto charm the jury. But during his testimony, Lay ended up comingacross as irritable and combative.

He also sounded arrogant, defending his extravagant lifestyle,including a $200,000 yacht for wife Linda’s birthday party, despite$100 million in personal debt and saying “it was difficult to turnoff that lifestyle like a spigot.”

Both he and Skilling maintained that there had been nowrongdoing at Enron, and that the company had been brought down bynegative publicity that undermined investors’ confidence.

His defense didn’t help his case with jurors.

“I wanted very badly to believe what they were saying,” jurorWendy Vaughan said after the verdicts were announced. “There wereplaces in the testimony I felt their character was questionable.”

Lay was born in Tyrone, Mo. and spent his childhood helping hisfamily make ends meet. His father ran a general store and soldstoves until he became a minister. Lay delivered newspapers andmowed lawns to pitch in. He attended the University of Missouri,found his calling in economics, and went to work at Exxon MobilCorp. predecessor Humble Oil & Refining upon graduation.

He joined the Navy, served his time at the Pentagon, and thenserved as undersecretary for the Department of the Interior beforehe returned to business. He became an executive at Florida Gas,then Transco Energy in Houston, and later became CEO of HoustonNatural Gas. In 1985, HNG merged with InterNorth in Omaha, Neb. toform Enron, and Lay became chairman and CEO of the combined companythe next year.

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