A rueful memoir by a young Enron acolyte who saw his dreams of wealth go down in flames—and here gets a little payback.
Employees of Enron, for a time the nation’s seventh most valuable corporation, were driven by two forces: fear and greed. Within what they called the “Death Star,” writes Cruver, fear came in the form of “rank and yank” performance reviews and the periodic purging of whole departments; greed was inspired by “colossal bonuses, millions in stock options,” and the promise of influence in the comparatively small pond that was Houston. Fear and greed were also what brought Enron down: paralyzed at the thought of gainsaying the company line, sure that instant wealth lay just around the corner, Cruver and his colleagues chose to ignore warnings that Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow, and other Enron officers were playing fast and loose with the facts and the books. The collapse of the proposed Enron/Dynergy merger in November 2001 finally shook all but the most ardent company loyalists awake; While sometimes sophomoric and self-satisfied, Cruver’s narrative has several virtues, among them its explanation of how Enron’s culture reflected the personalities and ambitions of Lay, a consummate politician (Cruver guesses that Lay had been preparing for a run at high public office before the collapse), and Skilling, supremely arrogant and “known to himself and others as the smartest human being ever to walk the face of the earth.” Cruver is also self-aware enough to know that his is but the first of a likely wave of books about Enron, and that other volumes will bring the depth of analysis that his does not—which does not diminish its value for business-oriented readers seeking tips on how not to run a company.
Gossipy and superficial, but a worthy companion to such kindred works as The Late Show, Microserfs, and Barbarians at the Gate.