Jeffrey Skilling, Former Enron CEO and Chief Operating Officer
It was Jeffrey Skilling's breakthrough idea to transform Enron from a natural gas pipeline company into an energy-trading firm. The new corporate mission gave Enron the ability to guide an often unstable energy market by locking in natural gas prices for long-term contracts.
Skilling joined the consulting firm McKinsey and Company after graduating from Harvard Business School. He was a rising star at McKinsey when he was assigned to work with Enron. Ken Lay was impressed with Skilling and hired him away to be CEO of Enron's finance division.
Skilling quickly distinguished himself at Enron with his forward-looking vision of the company. Hard assets such as pipelines were de-emphasized and intangible assets -- intellectual capital and knowledge of energy markets -- were touted by Skilling as Enron's future. He began to hire aggressive young managers, including Andrew Fastow, who would become Enron's chief financial officer. Skilling developed a tough reputation for weeding out employees he felt didn't measure up. Eventually, the top Skilling executives became known by some as the "billionaire boys."
Skilling developed a reputation at Enron by turning the company's energy trading division into a powerhouse. Earnings shot through the roof, increasing tenfold under his management. In 1995, Fortune magazine named Enron the nation's "Most Innovative Company," a title the company held for the next five years.
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