On December 2, 2001, just after midnight, Enron Corporation electronically filed for bankruptcy protection in the Southern District of New York. It was a horrible night for the core group of executives who had tried so hard for weeks to keep the company afloat. They were all exhausted, and completely frazzled. One executive said when he was called at home and told, just after the filing, he put down the phone and wept. It was a very emotional thing. These men had put their hearts and souls into the company and tried desperately to save it.
Thousands would come to work to discover they had no job, and no retirement account. The media would show pictures of laid off workers carrying banker boxes full of office clutter to their cars, and the narrative of a heartless company would be solidified.
Retention bonuses would be given out to keep the vital workers in place. Enron planned to re-organize around the pipelines. They would come roaring back. They believed they would come back.
It would never come back.
Other milestones were yet to come – the delisting of the stock from the NYSE would happen six weeks hence. The Congressional hearings, the indictments, the template of the Evil Company would be written.
But, for me, today is a horribly sad day in Enron history, second only to Cliff Baxter’s suicide in January. It was the day that, in all practical terms, Enron died.
That beautiful, vibrant company, staffed with some of the best minds the world has ever known… gone. Just like that.
Most of the brilliant men still survive, of course, and their intelligence is put to good use in other endeavors. All the executives who were not indicted are generally happy and successful. Those who were indicted or served time in prison are generally okay, I guess. But how do you quantify the loss of eight years of fighting a bad indictment? Or entering a plea deal to save your family any more heart ache?
Enron men had histories of being successful. They would survive no matter what; they would even thrive. They would save themselves.
But even with all that brain power, and all that high-octane energy, nothing could save Enron.