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Former Enron Chief Kenneth Lay


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Former Enron Chief Kenneth Lay

by Kristen Hays, AP Business Writer

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Kenneth Lay

HOUSTON, Texas -- Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay, who was convicted of helping perpetuate one of the most sprawling business frauds in U.S. history, died Wednesday, July 5 of a heart attack in Colorado. He was 64.

The Pitkin, Colorado, Sheriff's Department said officers were called to Lay's house in Old Snowmass, Colorado, shortly after 1 a.m. Mountain Time. He was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:11 a.m. Lay, who lived in Houston, frequently vacationed in Colorado.

Family spokeswoman Kelly L. Kimberly issued a statement saying, "Ken Lay passed away early this morning in Aspen. The Lays have a very large family with whom they need to communicate and out of respect for the family, we will release no further details at this time."

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Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay and his wife, Linda,

make their way to federal court in Houston for the first

day of his fraud trial.

Pastor Steve Wende of First United Methodist Church of Houston, said in a statement that church member Lay died unexpectedly of a "massive coronary." Wende said Lay and his wife, Linda, were in Colorado for the week "and his death was totally unexpected. Apparently, his heart simply gave out."

Lay, 64, and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, 52, were convicted on May 25 of setting up an elaborate scheme to deceive investors over Enron's crumbling finances prior to what was then the largest corporate bankruptcy in United States history. Sentencing for Lay and Skilling had been set for October 23 before Lay's untimely passing.

Lay and Skilling were convicted after their trial culminated a four-year investigation into one of the biggest corporate scandals of recent history. A prominent Republican fund raiser, Lay was found guilty of six fraud and conspiracy charges, and federal bank fraud charges in a separate trial. He faced a maximum of 165 years in jail.

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Ken Lay is sworn in at a Senate Commerce Committee

hearing on Capitol Hill.

Born April 15, 1942 to a poor Missouri family, Lay worked his way up in the ranks of business and founded Enron in the 1980s from the merger of two pipeline companies. He remained chief executive except for a brief period in 2001, and then took back the post of CEO until the company's bankruptcy filing later that year.

Lay developed ties with former president George Bush, played golf with president Bill Clinton, and contributed generously to President George W. Bush's 2000 campaign, as well as his earlier campaign for Texas governor in 1993.

Lay is survived by his wife, Linda Phillips, five children and stepchildren; three sons, Mark, David and Beau; two daughters, Robyn and Elizabeth; 12 grandchildren and two sisters, Bonnie and Sharon. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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