Born in Missouri in 1942, Kenneth Lay is known as the notorious Enron business executive who was convicted of conspiracy and fraud, which cost 20,000 employees their jobs and many their life savings, and losing billions for investors. Lay died of a heart attack in Colorado in 2006.
Early Life and Career
Kenneth Lee Lay was born on April 15, 1942, in Tyrone, Missouri, and received both his bachelor and master degrees in economics from the University of Missouri. With the military draft at its highest level, Lay applied for Navy officers candidate school and was accepted. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1968 to 1971 as an economist. In 1970, after earning a Ph.D. in economics at the University of Houston, Lay worked as an energy deputy under secretary for the United States Department of Interior until 1974. He then went to work for Exxon Corporation's predecessor, Humble Oil & Refining.
Working for Enron
In 1974, Kenneth Lay joined the Florida Gas Company, eventually serving as president of its successor company, Continental Resources Company. In 1981, he left Continental to join Transco Energy Company in Houston, Texas. Three years later, Lay joined Houston Natural Gas Co. as chairman and CEO. The company merged with InterNorth in 1985, and was later renamed Enron Corp. In 1986, Kenneth Lay was appointed chairman and chief executive officer of Enron.
Criminal Charges and Convictions
In 2001, Lay sold large amounts of Enron stock in September and October as its share price fell. All told, he liquidated more than $300 million in Enron stock from 1989 to 2001. Enron filed for bankruptcy in December 2001—the biggest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history at the time, costing 20,000 employees their jobs and many their life savings, and losing billions for investors. In July 2004, Lay was indicted for his role in the company's collapse, including 11 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud, and making false and misleading statements.
On May 25, 2006, Lay was found guilty on all six counts of conspiracy and fraud. His sentencing was scheduled to take place on October 23, 2006.
Kenneth Lay died of a heart attack while vacationing in Aspen, Colorado, on July 5, 2006. He is survived by his wife, Linda, two children, three stepchildren and 12 grandchildren.
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