Cooper outlines plan to save Enron

By PHIL MAGERS  |  Jan. 30, 2002 at 8:28 PM
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DALLAS, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The restructuring specialist hired to save bankrupt Enron Corp. said Wednesday he is confident he can turn around the Houston energy company but he would not give a timetable for the task he said will have "any number of speed bumps and potholes."

Stephen Cooper, newly named interim CEO and restructuring officer, explained to reporters in a conference call why his team believes Enron, a worldwide company with more than 19,000 employees, is "a very good candidate for a successful restructuring."

Cooper, the managing partner of Zolfo Cooper, LLC, a corporate recovery and crisis management firm, was hired Tuesday by the Enron board of directors to succeed Kenneth Lay, who resigned last week as chairman and chief executive officer of the troubled company.

Enron filed for Chapter 11 protection Dec. 11 in the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and more than 4,000 employees lost their jobs, many of them losing retirement savings. The collapse of the energy trading company is the subject of several investigations and scores of lawsuits.

Cooper said his focus is on the future of Enron under Chapter 11 reorganization and making it a successful business again. He said he would look primarily at the company's organization, its businesses, customer bases and liquidity.

"Although I have been here for only a couple of days, my sense is that Enron has a tremendous, tremendous organization," he said. "The people appear to be very bright, very dedicated, very committed, hardworking and they are focused on doing whatever it takes to have a successful reorganization of the company."

Cooper said Enron still has "tremendous businesses" in the markets its serves, loyal and solid customer bases "despite the problems," and with the cash on hand, the projected cash flow for the near term, and the backstop of debtor-in-possession financing, there will be a successful reorganization of the company.

Cooper admitted there would be "any number of speed bumps and potholes" along the way but he expressed confidence that Enron could be turned around. He said his team would work on a "very fast timetable" but he would not be pinned down on a more specific timeline.

When asked about what went wrong at Enron, the restructuring expert made it clear that his focus was on the future and not the past.

"It's literally of no interest to me," he said. "I'm not going to spend my time here looking in the rear view mirror. There are a lot of people here who deserve our best show at reorganizing the company. And the only way that is going happen is if we look forward and not backward. Whatever went on, went on. Whatever the special committee says about it, you will all know about it in a matter of days because there will be no secrets here."

Cooper referred to a special committee that has been conducting an internal investigation at Enron. The company is also the focus of investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Congress and the Justice Department.

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