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Skilling Named Enron's New CEO; Lay Chairman

Skilling Named Enron's New CEO; Lay Chairman

Jeffrey Skilling, Enron Corp.'s front man for its energy risk management business and commodity trading growth, will add a CEO in February to his title of president and CFO following a vote by the company's board of directors last week. Current CEO Kenneth Lay will remain chairman and a full-time employee and once again tried to dispel rumors that he may be tapped as a member of President-Elect George W. Bush's cabinet.

"The best time for succession is when the successor is ready and when the company is well positioned for the future," Lay said. "Jeff is a big part of Enron's success and is clearly ready to lead the company. With Jeff's promotion, succession is clear, our deep pool of management talent remains intact, and no other organizational changes need to be made to take the company to new levels of growth."

Skilling, 47, joined Enron in 1990 after leading McKinsey & Co.'s energy and chemical consulting practices. He is considered responsible for bringing Enron to the forefront in energy trading, and has been instrumental in Enron's use of risk management products and forward contracting structures in the natural gas industry, using similar concepts in electricity, bandwidth, metals and other commodity products. He was named president and COO in December 1996.

"I am particularly happy that Ken and I will continue running the company together and that he has put the rumors of his possible departure to Washington, D.C. to rest," Skilling said. He said he did not want to "break up a team that has delivered superior returns to Enron's shareholders." Enron's shares have risen about 74% this year.

Skilling said no major changes are anticipated, adding Enron would be "steady as she goes." However, he expects more commodities are expected to be added to Enron's trading market, including high tech products such as data storage.

Lay, 58, has not completely ruled out the possibility that he might take a job in D.C., if asked. He became Enron's chairman and CEO in February 1986 after the company was created with the merger of Houston Natural Gas and InterNorth. After serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy, Lay had been Deputy Under Secretary for Energy in the U.S. Department of the Interior. He also has been a top contributor to Bush's campaign this year.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Enron and its employees have donated more money to Bush than any other company. Lay is on a list of more than 70 contributors to Bush's recount committee that raised at least $100,000 toward his election, the Center said.

Lay said he thinks there are several "serious" energy problems facing the country, which would require a "strong" Secretary of Energy. Among other things, he said the country needs to move toward more deregulation and open more land to drilling for natural gas. He also recommends that price caps be removed to encourage investment.

Carolyn Davis, Houston

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