Former Top Enron Executive
Found Shot Dead

By Kristen Hays
Associated Press Writer

HOUSTON -- A former Enron Corp. executive who reportedly challenged the company's questionable financial practices and resigned last May was found shot to death in a car today, an apparent suicide.
Police in the suburb, Sugar Land, confirmed the death of 43-year-old J. Clifford Baxter, a former Enron vice chairman. He was shot in the head.
A suicide note was found, police said, but its contents were not disclosed.
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our friend and colleague, Cliff Baxter. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends," the company said in a statement. Spokesman Mark Palmer had no additional comment.
Baxter was vice chairman of Enron when he resigned in May 2001, several months before the energy company's collapse.
Baxter was identified by name in the explosive warning that Enron executive Sherron Watkins wrote last August to company chairman Ken Lay.
"Cliff Baxter complained mightily to (then-CEO Jeff) Skilling and all who would listen about the inappropriateness of our transactions with LJM," one of the partnerships that kept hundreds of millions of dollars in debt off Enron's books.
Watkins identified Baxter in a section of her letter stating there is "a veil of secrecy around LJM and Raptor," another entity involved in the partnerships.
Watkins' letter to Lay stated that "we will implode in a wave of accounting scandals" unless the company changed its ways.
Enron's public downfall began in mid-October with the announcement of a $618 million third-quarter loss and a $1.2 billion reduction in the company's equity. Then the partnerships that kept debt off the books were revealed.
The company-- once No. 7 on the Fortune magazine list of the 500 largest companies-- rapidly descended into bankruptcy, the largest in history, on Dec. 2. Its chairman, Kenneth Lay, resigned this week. He has been one of President Bush's strongest supporters over the years.
Baxter's body was found around 2:30 a.m. today by a police officer checking on a car parked in a residential area in Sugar Land. He was in the driver's seat. Identification he was carrying indicated he worked for Enron.
Jim Richard, a Fort Bend County justice of the peace, ruled Baxter's death a suicide.
Baxter's family could not be reached for comment. His home telephone number is unlisted.
Baxter was one of 29 former and current Enron executives and board members named as defendants in a federal lawsuit. Plaintiffs' lawyers said the executives made $1.1 billion by selling Enron stock between October 1998 and November 2001.
It said Baxter had sold 577,436 shares for $35.2 million.
At the time his resignation was announced, Skilling said Baxter had made "a tremendous contribution to Enron's evolution, particularly as a member of the team that built Enron's wholesale business."
It said his primary reason for resigning was to spend more time with his family.
Skilling himself abruptly resigned in August, citing personal reasons.
Baxter had joined Enron in 1991 and was chairman and CEO of Enron North America prior to being named chief strategy officer for Enron Corp. in June 2000 and vice chairman in October 2000, the company said.
He was born in 1958 in Amityville, N.Y., and graduated from New York University in 1980. He was a captain in the U.S. Air Force from 1980-85 and received an MBA from Columbia University in 1987, according to the company. If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at For information about reprinting this article, go to

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