“They’re still trying to hide the weenie,” thought Sherron Watkins as she read a newspaper clipping about Enron two weeks before Christmas, 2001. . . It quoted [CFO] Jeff McMahon addressing the company’s creditors and cautioning them against a rash judgment. “Don’t assume that there is a smoking gun.”
Sherron knew Enron well enough to know that the company was in extreme spin mode…
Power Failure is the electrifying behind-the-scenes story of the collapse of Enron, the high-flying gas and energy company touted as the poster child of the New Economy that, in its hubris, had aspired to be “The World’s Leading Company,” and had briefly been the seventh largest corporation in America.
Written by prizewinning journalist Mimi Swartz, and substantially based on the never-before-published revelations of former Enron vice-president Sherron Watkins, as well as hundreds of other interviews, Power Failure shows the human face beyond the greed, arrogance, and raw ambition that fueled the company’s meteoric rise in the late 1990s. At the dawn of the new century, Ken Lay’s and Jeff Skilling's faces graced the covers of business magazines, and Enron’s money oiled the political machinery behind George W. Bush’s election campaign. But as Wall Street analysts sang Enron’s praises, and its stock spiraled dizzyingly into the stratosphere, the company’s leaders were madly scrambling to manufacture illusory profits, hide its ballooning debt, and bully Wall Street into buying its fictional accounting and off-balance-sheet investment vehicles. The story of Enron’s fall is a morality tale writ large, performed on a stage with an unforgettable array of props and side plots, from parking lots overflowing with Boxsters and BMWs to hot-house office affairs and executive tantrums.
Among the cast of characters Mimi Swartz and Sherron Watkins observe with shrewd Texas eyes and an insider’s perspective are: CEO Ken Lay, Enron’s “outside face,” who was more interested in playing diplomat and paving the road to a political career than in managing Enron’s high-testosterone, anything-goes culture; Jeff Skilling, the mastermind behind Enron’s mercenary trading culture, who transformed himself from a nerdy executive into the personification of millennial cool; Rebecca Mark, the savvy and seductive head of Enron’s international division, who was Skilling’s sole rival to take over the company; and Andy Fastow, whose childish pranks early in his career gave way to something far more destructive. Desperate to be a player in Enron’s deal-making, trader-oriented culture, Fastow transformed Enron’s finance department into a “profit center,” creating a honeycomb of financial entities to bolster Enron’s “profits,” while diverting tens of millions of dollars into his own pockets
An unprecedented chronicle of Enron’s shocking collapse, Power Failure should take its place alongside the classics of previous decades – Barbarians at the Gate and Liar’s Poker – as one of the cautionary tales of our times.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Power Failure|
|Release Date: 03-25-2003|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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Winners and Losers
SHERRON Watkins went to the Enron Corporation’s November management conference for the year 2000 determined she wouldn’t be taken for a loser. The year before, at her first such meeting after being promoted to vice president, she had blown it. Booked into the Hill Country Hyatt and Resort for three days of corporate team building, she had opted, in the recreational hours, for the company-sponsored salsa-making class. At affairs such as these, where Enron took over the entire hotel and offered an array of afternoon networking and socializing activities, it was important to pick one that advanced your career. A smart, ambitious employee would never sign up for the afternoon of fly-fishing, for instance, because you couldn’t lose the smell of fish in time for the evening cocktail party, and because you could wind up wasting your afternoon with guys who worked in the once crucial but now irrelevant pipeline division. That left, as career-building activities, skeet shooting, the Road Rally, tennis, golf, facials, pedicures, outlet shopping, and antiquing in a nearby Hill Country town.
To understand the loaded nature of the choices, you had to understand the loaded nature of life at Enron. Salsa making, for instance, had turned out to be a disaster. One of the small hotel conference rooms had been converted into a kitchen for the occasion; Sherron had entered straight from her facial, without makeup, without combing her hair, and she was chopping jalapenos with three pipeline guys—middle-aged men shaped like bumpy Bosc pears—when the then COO, soon to be CEO, Jeff Skilling, had walked in. Or, rather, he’d poked his he