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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 16:01 GMT
Enron: Key figures
Enron's chairman and chief executive Kenneth Lay
Fall of "Kenny Boy": Enron's Kenneth Lay
By BBC News Online's David Chazan

Enron's collapse leaves a whiff of scandal over the links between the energy industry and the administration of President George W Bush, himself a former oil executive.

Swirling around the biggest company bankruptcy in US history are reports of top-level political links - notably with several key members of the Bush administration including the president himself.

Enron is a Houston-based energy trading company and a household name in the United States. The Houston Astros' baseball stadium is called 'Enron Field'.

The saga of Enron's rise and fall has a long cast of characters. Click on the names below to read about their part.



Kenneth Lay

Enron's chairman and chief executive and friend of George W Bush was nicknamed "Kenny Boy" by the president.

The 59-year-old Mr Lay, an economist by training, is credited with turning Enron from an old-fashioned natural gas company into one of the world's largest energy traders.

Mr Lay and Enron poured substantial sums into Mr Bush's various campaigns in what appeared to be a relentless quest for political influence.

Employing what was described as an army of lobbyists, they gave money to Republicans, but also donated smaller amounts to Democrats.

Active in charity fund-raising, Mr Lay is prominent in Texan business and social circles. He and his wife Linda are still said to be on the Houston charity circuit.

Mr Lay has been quoted as boasting: "We like to think of ourselves as the Microsoft of the energy world."

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Jeffrey Skilling

Kenneth Lay's long-serving No. 2, Jeffrey Skilling
Jeffrey Skilling: Quit without a golden handshake
Kenneth Lay's deputy served as chief executive of Enron for six months until his resignation last August.

He is seen as the godfather of a creative but 'cut-throat' corporate culture. He said last month that he was stunned by the speed of the company's collapse.

Previously president and chief operating officer of Enron, he is considered one of the masterminds of the wheeling and dealing that led to Enron's collapse. Mr Skilling, 48, who joined Enron in 1990, insists that his abrupt resignation was motivated by "personal reasons" and not Enron's impending doom.

He left without a pay-off, saying he wanted to spend more time with his children and do more charity work. But he is reported to have sold millions of dollars' worth of company stock after his departure.

He has a reputation for toughness and bravado - and is reported to have taken key customers on a dirt-bike trip through Mexico.

A former McKinsey & Co consultant and Harvard Business School graduate, he was once quoted as saying there were two kinds of people in the world - those who understood Enron's complex business strategy built on assets owned by others, and those who didn't.

Now, however, "Enronomics" threatens to drag down his own reputation.

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Andrew Fastow

The chief financial officer was fired in October. He allegedly created a web of off-balance sheet partnerships with external companies that were supposed to be independent.

In fact, the companies - some of which had names such as Chewco or Jedi after characters in the Star Wars films - were reportedly owned by Mr Fastow or others with Enron backing.

Mr Fastow and others are alleged to have used the partnerships and a complex network of subsidiaries to disguise Enron's debts and liabilities.

Mr Fastow is said to have refused to answer questions at a December meeting with Securities and Exchange Commission officials.

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President George W Bush

The former Texas oil executive is seen by many in the energy industry as an 'oil-friendly president'.

He received substantial sums in campaign contributions from Enron and Kenneth Lay.

Mr Bush championed some issues Enron considered important, such as deregulating utilities and limiting compensation awards.

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Vice-President Dick Cheney
Vice-President Dick Cheney: In seclusion since 11 September
But despite Mr Lay's calls for help to key people in the Bush administration, they did not try to save Enron from collapse.

Vice-President Dick Cheney

He is also a former Texas oilman and chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton. He reportedly met Enron executives four times last year to discuss energy policy.

Mr Cheney, who chaired the White House energy task force, says Enron's troubled finances were never discussed.

Halliburton built the 'Enron Field' stadium in Houston when Mr Cheney was chief executive.

US Attorney-General John Ashcroft
Attorney-General John Ashcroft took campaign contributions from Enron
Mr Cheney, who has suffered several heart attacks, has been kept largely away from the spotlight in a "secure undisclosed location" since the 11 September suicide attacks on the United States - apparently to avoid the disastrous scenario of a terrorist attack in which both the president and the vice-president were assassinated.

As Defence Secretary under Mr Bush's father, Mr Cheney helped to direct the Gulf War, along with Colin Powell.

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John Ashcroft

The US Attorney General has withdrawn from criminal investigations into Enron because he received more than $57,000 in campaign contributions from Mr Lay, other Enron employees and the company.

Mr Ashcroft, 59, a Yale graduate, is seen as a staunch conservative with hardline views on abortion and capital punishment.

He has also called for military tribunals to try suspected terrorists.

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US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is known for his outspoken manner
Paul O'Neill

The Treasury Secretary also received at least two telephone calls from Mr Lay as Enron began its nose dive.

Mr O'Neill, 66, former chief executive of the aluminium producer Alcoa, is famous for his outspoken manner.

Describing Enron's collapse as the result of the "genius of capitalism", he said there was a price to pay for bad business decisions.

Mr O'Neill has had a mixed press as treasury secretary, but enjoys powerful backing from Mr Cheney, his biggest sponsor, and his friend Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

He worked with both of them as deputy budget director in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

A graduate of Fresno State University, he climbed the ranks of the civil service before becoming chief executive of International Paper, then Alcoa.

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US Commerce Secretary Don Evans
Commerce Secretary Don Evans is another of the Bush administration's oil men
Don Evans

The Commerce Secretary also received calls for help from Enron.

Mr Evans, who directed Mr Bush's presidential campaign, is a fellow Texas oil millionaire who has long been a fund-raiser for Mr Bush.

An old friend of the president, Mr Evans, 55, is a former head of oil and gas exploration company Tom Brown.

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