Lessons from Enron

One of my favorite sports memories occurred on March 30, 2000. That was the night my Houston Astros opened their incredible new ballpark with a 10-inning preseason win over the New York Yankees. I paid $100 each for three seats that were closer to God than the field. But we were there; that’s all that mattered.

The ballpark was called Enron Field. That was before Enron filed for bankruptcy amid one of America’s historic corporate scandals. That was 15 years ago today – December 2, 2001.

Under chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay, the energy-trading company landed the number seven spot on Fortune magazine’s list of the top five hundred U.S. companies. In 2000, the company employed 21,000 people and posted revenue of $111 billion. Over the next year, however, Enron’s stock price began a dramatic slide, dropping from $90.75 in August 2000 to $0.26 by closing on November 30, 2001.

As prices fell, Lay sold large amounts of his Enron stock, while simultaneously encouraging Enron employees to buy more shares and assuring them that the company was on the rebound. Employees saw their retirement savings accounts wiped out as Enron’s stock price continued to plummet. After another energy company, Dynegy, canceled a planned $8.4 billion buy-out in late November, Enron filed for bankruptcy. By the end of the year, Enron’s collapse had cost investors billions of dollars, wiped out some 5,600 jobs, and liquidated almost $2.1 billion in pension plans.

Lesson 1 – There are no guarantees in this life.

Lesson 2 – Put your faith in God, not man.

Lesson 3 – Money, and the things money buys, do not last.

Lesson 4 – Be careful in naming a new ballpark after a company.

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