7/5/2006 Houston -- Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay, who was convicted of helping perpetuate one of the most sprawling business frauds in U.S. history, has died of a heart attack in Colorado. He was 64.
A secretary at his church and another secretary for his lead criminal lawyer, Michael Ramsey, on Monday both confirmed the death. Lay frequently vacationed in Colorado.
Lay, who faced life in prison, was scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 23. Nicknamed "Kenny Boy" by President Bush, Lay led Enron's meteoric rise from a staid natural gas pipeline company formed by a 1985 merger to an energy and trading conglomerate that reached No. 7 on the Fortune 500 in 2000 and claimed $101 billion in annual revenues.
Lay, who lived in Houston, was convicted May 25 along with former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling of defrauding investors and employees by repeatedly lying about Enron's financial strength in the months before the company plummeted into bankruptcy protection in December 2001. Lay was also convicted in a separate non-jury trial of bank fraud and making false statements to banks, charges related to his personal finances.
Pastor Steve Wende of First United Methodist Church of Houston, said in a statement that church member Lay died unexpectedly of a "massive coronary." Burt Palmer, the church's executive pastor, told The Associated Press that the Lays attended church in Houston on Sunday. "The church continues to love them and help them walk through this difficult time," he said.
Pat Worcester, executive assistant to CEO at Aspen Valley Hospital, said Lay was admitted into the emergency room at 3:10 a.m. Wednesday. She said the hospital would release a statement later.
Reached by telephone at his home in Houston, Skilling told The Associated Press that he was aware of Lay's death, but declined further comment.
Lay was born in Tyrone, Mo. and spent his childhood helping his family make ends meet. His father ran a general store and sold stoves until he became a minister. Lay delivered newspapers and mowed lawns to pitch in. He attended the University of Missouri, found his calling in economics, and went to work at Exxon Mobil Corp. predecessor Humble Oil & Refining upon graduation.
He joined the Navy, served his time at the, and then served as undersecretary for the Department of the Interior before he returned to business. He became an executive at Florida Gas, then Transco Energy in Houston, and later became CEO of Houston Natural Gas. In 1985, HNG merged with InterNorth in Omaha, Neb. to form Enron, and Lay became chairman and CEO of the combined company the next year.
(Contributed by AP)