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Sunday, 27 January, 2002, 12:35 GMT
Enron's J Clifford Baxter: A profile
Palm Royale Blvd, Friday, Jan. 25, 2002, where Clifford Baxter died
Sugar Land, Texas, where Mr Baxter committed suicide
Prior to his death last week, J Clifford Baxter was for many a living embodiment of the American dream.

By the age of 43, he was a retired millionaire, with a mansion in an affluent suburb of Houston, a yacht and a young family.

Former Enron vice chairman J. Clifford Baxter
Mr Baxter was depressed before he died
His vast wealth had enabled him in May 2001 to leave behind a seemingly successful career at the energy giant Enron, where he was chief strategy officer and vice chairman.

Perhaps he would lived a life of moneyed leisure for years to come, had Enron not collapsed last December, dragging down the reputations of its top executives with it.

The ensuing controversy surrounding Enron's implosion appears to have turned Mr Baxter's charmed existence into a living nightmare.

In tears

After Enron's fall, Mr Baxter was named in a shareholder lawsuit, which alleged that 29 people had capitalised from selling Enron stock before the company collapsed.

J. Clifford Baxter
Born in Amityville, New York
Graduated from New York University
Captain in the Air Force (1980-1985)
Received MBA from Columbia University (1987)
Brief stint as investment banker
Joined Enron in 1991
Retired from Enron in May 2001
He was also subpoenaed by a Congressional committee investigating the Enron affair and was expected to give evidence.

Days before his suicide, he reportedly broke down in tears while talking on the telephone to former business associate about Enron.

He was also described by journalists that visited his home as dishevelled and unshaven.

Friends of Mr Baxter said he was depressed that he might have to testify about the role his colleagues had played in the collapse of Enron.

A whistle-blower?

He was known as "ruthless" in the workplace, and even arrogant, and yet he seems to have suffered greatly from Enron's demise.

Former Enron chief executive Jeff Skilling
Mr Skilling, to whom Mr Baxter complained
And the fact that he was named in a memo as one of the few executives who had in the past challenged Enron's questionable accounting practices adds to the mystery.

"Cliff Baxter complained mightily to [the then chief executive Jeff] Skilling and all who would listen about the inappropriateness of our transactions," wrote Sherron Watkins, another Enron employee.

Mr Baxter joined Enron in 1991 after varied career in investment banking and the Air Force.

His early years

Born in Amityville, New York, he graduated from New York University to join the military, where he became an Air Force captain from 1980 to 1985.


Definitely a guy you wanted on your side and not against you

Kevin Hyatt
Enron director
He then left the military and two years later received an MBA from Columbia University.

At Enron, he quickly moved up the ranks and was instrumental in transforming the company from a power producer into a high-flying energy trader.

He was chairman and chief executive of Enron North America before he become chief strategy officer and then vice chairman.

Kevin Hyatt, Enron's director of pipeline business development, described Mr Baxter as "one of the best mentors I've had".

"He was ruthless when it came to working a deal. Definitely a guy you wanted on your side and not against you," Mr Hyatt added.

"But when it came to people around him, people who worked for him, he genuinely cared... about the employees and their families."

Retirement

Mr Baxter said he left Enron to spend more time with his family - his wife Carol, a 16-year old son and an 11-year old daughter.

Clifford Baxter's black Mercedes-Benz
Mr Baxter left a suicide note in his car
At the time of his resignation, Mr Skilling praised his "creativity, intelligence, sense of humour and straightforward manner".

Like many wealthy businessmen - and indeed Enron itself - Mr Baxter was also known for his generous contributions to charity.

Tax records show that he gave money to Junior Achievement, which works to give school children exposure to free enterprise, the American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society and Sunshine Kids.

A 'tragic loss'

But all these external facts about his life and career give few clues as to why he chose to take his own life with .38-caliber revolver in his car on 25 January.

A suicide note was found in the black Mercedes-Benz and reportedly mentioned Enron, but police have not disclosed the contents.

His family are mourning a "beloved husband, father and friend", while Enron said that "it was deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our friend and colleague".

Mr Baxter's death also adds a tragic dimension to the Enron saga, which has already devastated the lives of many former employees.


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27 Jan 02 | Business
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