Diva of the Deal
Water conferences are usually boring affairs. Filled with too many middle-aged men whose fashion sense favors the timeless pocket-protector-and-a-tweed-jacket look, the conferences attract few dynamic personalities and even fewer women. But the water wonks who went to New York City in mid-1999 knew to expect something different. Not only would the meeting be held at the World Trade Center, but Rebecca Mark was going to give a speech.
Most of the attendees had never seen Mark. But they had heard of her, and they knew enough to expect a show. They weren't disappointed.
According to attendees, Mark arrived, as was her custom, via limousine. And although the weather in New York was warm, Mark swept into the meeting room wearing a dark floor-length fur. "It looked like it cost a ton of money. I don't know what kind it was, maybe Russian sable. It was gorgeous," said one attendee. As she walked to the front of the meeting room, she was trailed by an aide, a matronly, decidedly unfashionable woman, who appeared to be in her late fifties or early sixties. Mark bore straight ahead, looking neither right nor left. Her strutting manner made it clear that she was going to show these tweedy know-nothings that Enron was in the water business to stay. Soon, the utility geeks would know that Enron's new company, Azurix, was a force to be reckoned with, a company that would change the water business forever.
As Mark approached the stage, she reached up to unhook the fur, which she had been wearing capelike, over her shoulders. Just as she reached the stage, with nary a look back, Mark sent the fur flying off her shoulders. The fur hung in the air just long enough to be caught by her faithful Sancha Panza, who folded it in her arms and scurried to the sidelines. Mark then vaulted up the stairs to give her speech.
Mark proceeded to tell the conference how Azurix was going to use Enron's expertise and money to kick their butts in the water business. Never mind that Azurix was a newcomer. Azurix had the secret sauce. After finishing her speech, she was far too busy to hang around and listen to the talk about mundane things like reverse osmosis and turbidity. So she hit the door, a fact that left many industry members seething. "We were absolutely determined to bury her because when she'd speak at these conferences, she took the air of the definitive voice in the business," said Dick Heckmann. This founder and former CEO of U.S. Filter (now part of French conglomerate Vivendi) was at the World Trade Center that day in 1999. "She'd say things like, 'This is a new day in the water business. Enron is bringing its trading abilities to the water business to bring it out of biblical times.' "
"Then," Heckmann said, "when I got up to talk, she'd leave. She'd come in just in time to give her speech and then leave immediately. It just pissed me off."
But then, Rebecca Mark never worried about pissing people off. Her only concerns were making money and promoting herself -- in that order. And yet, as the Enron scandal continues to unfold, Mark has managed to remain nearly invisible. Except for a profile in The Washington Post and passing mentions in a few other publications, Mark's name is rarely uttered in the list of Enron's main miscreants. Her disappearing act is even more remarkable given the size and scope of the failed businesses she launched in the water and electric power business.
Rebecca Mark is a size-six bottle blond with high cheekbones, extra-straight, extra-big, extra-white teeth, enormous brown eyes and always perfect makeup. She favors gold jewelry and has more fancy clothes than an upscale shopping mall. Whereas other female executives tend toward navy blue, gray flannel and conservative pumps, she prefers the very upscale yet slightly trampy look. Her brightly colored outfits are from the likes of Armani and Escada, usually including miniskirts and a pair of come-hither stiletto heels.
Throughout the 1990s Mark was Enron's rock star. And just like Britney Spears, everyone familiar with the company had an opinion about her.
Women are particularly scathing. Perhaps they're jealous of Mark's money, success and good looks. Envious or not, they're clearly angry about what they consider Mark's unflinching use of her sexuality to get to the top. One prominent (female) stock analyst said of Mark, "She got to the top on her back."
An important former (male) executive at Enron said admiringly of Mark, "She's as good with her sexuality around men as anyone I've ever seen. She knows how to flaunt it. She just knew how to use her intelligence and sexuality to her advantage." Indeed, much of Mark's self-promotion depended on not her brains but her butt. "I don't mind being remembered as, 'Oh, that's that beautiful woman I talked to,' " she told Forbes magazine in 1998.
Opinions aside, there are a few facts about Mark that cannot be disputed: She could sell ice to Eskimos; she's pretty enough to be a model; she's talented, speaks excellent Spanish, is a Harvard MBA, has a wealth of knowledge about the energy business and owns a Rolodex filled with the names of important government officials in dozens of foreign countries. And she's unlikely to ever have another significant job in corporate America.
Sure, Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow did serious damage at Enron. And although Mark wasn't as ruthless as Skilling or as nasty as Fastow, she was every bit as cunning and every bit as vain in her quest for power, fame and, of course, mountains of lucre. The Missouri-born gal launched her quest from the unlikeliest of places: a remote Indian port on the Arabian Sea that was one of the legendary stopping points for Sinbad the Sailor, a place called Dabhol.
Rebecca Mark wasn't born into a world of high finance and international power projects, but she managed to grow accustomed to them awfully fast. She was born Rebecca Pulliam in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1954. Her parents were farmers, and she spent much of her youth learning the value of hard work and manual labor. One of four children, she baled hay and worked in the fields. Mark attended Kirksville High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society. Joellen Hayes, the librarian at Kirksville High, remembers Mark. "She had big dark eyes and wore her hair long and straight. She was a beautiful girl. She was not terribly outgoing -- more quiet and reserved, and highly respected by teachers. She was just a very pleasant, mature-acting girl."
After high school, she attended William Jewell College, a private Baptist school near Kansas City. From there, she went to Baylor University in Waco, where she got an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master's in international management. After graduation, she worked for First City National Bank of Houston, one of many big Texas banks that are now owned by megabanks on the East or West Coast. Along the way, she married Thomas Mark, and together they had twin sons. In 1982, she jumped into the energy business, joining the treasury department at Continental Resources, a natural gas pipeline company. In 1985, Continental was bought by Houston Natural Gas and Mark's sojourn into the manly world of energy began.
Mark had been at HNG for several years when she began having an affair with her boss, a volatile autocrat named John Wing, who was heading Enron's electric power division. The former army captain put Mark through what one person compared to his own private business boot camp. "Wing treated her like a drill sergeant would treat a young private," recalled one executive. "He'd fire her publicly. He'd ridicule her on conference calls, treat her like a secretary, dress her down. He basically had her psychologically from any perspective.
"She had a lay-down sexual harassment suit if she had wanted it. Yet at the same time, they're having an affair," said the executive. "You didn't feel comfortable being around them. But you were more uncomfortable because they were having an affair."
While Wing was berating Mark in the boardroom and boffing her in the bedroom, he was also showing her how to get deals done in the international electricity market, which was just beginning to open up to foreign investors. He tutored her on the details of the Teesside power plant in England, Enron's first really big foreign power project. That schooling provided the groundwork for Mark's ascendance within Enron. In 1988, she and Thomas Mark split. The divorce left her with custody of the couple's twin sons. About that same time, she left Enron to attend Harvard Business School.
After graduating from Harvard, Mark came back to Enron ready to set the world on fire. Within a few months of her return, she convinced Ken Lay that there were many more opportunities on the international front than just the Teesside project in England. So the company created Enron Development Corporation, and in 1991 Mark was named CEO. That position led her to pursue projects from Qatar to Turkey. Without question, though, the most important project was Dabhol.
For years, foreign investors had shied away from India for a simple reason: The country's politics were in nearly constant turmoil. And that turmoil scared investors. If they invested in a big project and the Congress Party, the ruling party in India for nearly half a century, was suddenly thrown out of office, there were no assurances that their money would be returned.
By the early 1990s Mark began seeing India as her big opportunity. If she was ever going to make her mark at Enron, she needed to make a big score. And if she could get the Indian government to finalize the Dabhol power plant deal, she'd make millions of dollars in bonuses, and better yet, she'd finally be out of the shadow of Wing, the man who'd taught her how to do big power deals.
By the summer of 1993, Mark had been working on the Indian project nonstop for nearly 18 months. And she was making progress. She had the backing of Lay and the somewhat lukewarm support of Enron's then-president, Rich Kinder. (Kinder left Enron in late 1996. Now a billionaire, he made his fortune in the pipeline business at Kinder Morgan Inc. and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P.) Plus, Mark was able to use her charm and good looks to her advantage in India in a way that wasn't possible in the United States.
The Indian politicians she dealt with had never seen anyone like her. "She was able to use her feminine side in a very constructive way, and she didn't care to diminish it," said an Enron executive who worked with her in India. Mark would wear one of her tailored business suits to a meeting in Bombay, and a short time later, don an Indian sari and a pair of sandals for a visit to the project site with local politicians. "She was very good at sensing that a minister or an executive at a powerful company was having difficulty in dealing with her, a woman," the source remembered. "So when that cultural chauvinism came up and there was something we needed, she'd back away and almost become subservient to a male counterpart."
Mark knew that the risks were enormous. She was working on the biggest single foreign investment project ever proposed in India. In the 15 years prior to Enron's entry into India, the total of all foreign investment in the country had been less than what Enron was proposing to invest in just one project. But fear and caution weren't Rebecca Mark's style. Action was.
In addition to the political risk that came with the Dabhol project, there were huge capital risks. Enron, along with its partners, General Electric and construction giant Bechtel, were proposing a 2,015-megawatt power plant that would cost about $2.9 billion. Phase I of the project would burn naphtha, a fuel similar to kerosene and gasoline. The 740-megawatt power plant would help stabilize the local transmission grid and provide infrastructure for the more expensive second phase. Phase II meant liquefied natural gas, or LNG, and LNG infrastructure is very expensive. The fuel can be moved only by refrigerated tankers that cost hundreds of millions of dollars each. The infrastructure associated with the LNG terminal at Dabhol was going to be about $1 billion. That overhead and the cost of making LNG (it has to be frozen) and transporting it meant that Dabhol's fuel costs were likely going to be about $500 million per year.
Despite the high costs, Mark and Enron believed LNG would be their foothold in India. After Dabhol got up and running, the company planned to build a pipeline north to Bombay to carry gas from the LNG terminal to other power plants or big industrial customers near sprawling Bombay. The Indian government appeared to be excited about Enron's project. Not only would it help stabilize the country's overtaxed power grid, but it would provide a reliable source of energy that could attract new foreign investment to the western coast of India, particularly new industries. Sure, the plant was going to benefit Enron, but if it could be built at the right price, it would be very good for India, too.
And though Indian politics, logistics and other factors were important, the final justification of Dabhol was really very simple. Mark and her fellow Enron employees had to answer two key questions: Did India really need the power? And, more important, could India pay for it?
The answers were probably, and probably not.
India, with about one billion people, has nearly four times as many residents as the United States. Most of them are desperately poor. According to the World Bank, the average per capita income in India is just $450. That means that the vast majority of Indians cannot afford electric appliances or the electricity needed to run them. That fact shows up in the country's electricity consumption figures. Although India has four times as many people as the United States, it consumes about one-eighth the electricity.
When Indian residents do consume electricity, they often don't pay for it. When they do pay, it's often at prices that are far below the actual cost of producing the power. In his excellent book on the Dabhol project, Power Play: A Study of the Enron Project, Indian journalist Abhay Mehta estimated that in the Indian city of Delhi, about 54 percent of the power consumed in the city is simply stolen. In the state of Maharashtra, where Enron was building Dabhol, Mehta reports that the official estimate of the amount of power that was stolen was 15.7 percent. "However, since nearly 40 per cent of the total generation of electricity in Maharashtra is supplied without any metering, it is quite likely that the real losses are much higher than the official figure," wrote Mehta. "A realistic estimate of Maharashtra's T&D [transmission and distribution] losses would probably be around 30 per cent."
The theft of power provides critically important context for the Dabhol project. Who would be crazy enough to build a power plant in a place where 30 percent (or more) of the output was simply going to disappear?
The World Bank thought Dabhol was a bad project and refused to finance it. On April 30, 1993, the huge lending agency sent a letter to Indian authorities that said the Enron project was "too large for base load operation" in Maharashtra. The agency said coal was a better and lower-cost fuel than LNG for producing electricity in the region and that replacing coal-fired electricity with LNG-fired power from Dabhol would place a heavy financial burden on the Maharashtra State Electricity Board.
The World Bank report was bad news for Enron, but Mark and her chief lieutenant at Enron, Joe Sutton, a macho, hard-driving former army officer who wasn't used to being told no, charged onward. On August 26, 1993, Mark faxed a letter to Sharad Pawar, the chief minister in the state of Maharashtra, that showed her blind determination to get the Dabhol deal done. She began by saying that Enron officials had been meeting with officials from Maharashtra and the country's electric power agency "to answer their questions about the project. The remaining concern," she said, was a state official named Mr. Beg, who "continues to hold up project approval based upon the question of demand for power in Maharashtra. No one from the Ministry of Power in Delhi has given direction to Mr. Beg to move forward on this issue" (emphasis added).
Mark didn't know it at the time, but her letter would prove to be the key document in the story of Dabhol. In it, she is telling Pawar there was no reason for people like Mr. Beg to delay the project based on silly matters like "demand for power in Maharashtra." The message was clear: Forget about questions about who will use the power and how much they might pay. Sign the damn papers.
By early December 1993, Mark had all the signatures she needed. The Indian government signed a contract requiring it to pay Enron about $1.3 billion per year, or about $26 billion over the life of the 20-year contract. It was, Mehta said, one of the largest civilian or military contracts ever signed, anywhere on the globe. Over the life of the contract, India would pay Enron and its partners nearly nine times what Dabhol had cost. Furthermore, India was required to pay for any cost increases caused by price hikes associated with the plant's fuel, electricity transmission lines or plant maintenance.
The final insult of the contract was a stipulation that required India to pay Enron in American dollars, even though the Indian rupee was undergoing regular depreciation. Mark had negotiated a can't-lose contract. The deal really was too good to be true. And it wouldn't last.
But Mark was too busy to worry about the details. Her ambition was obvious to one executive who worked at Enron. Mark "wanted to eclipse [John] Wing. Ultimately, she wanted to eclipse Kinder, Skilling and even Lay," says the exec.
Enron certainly paid her well. Company proxies show that between 1996 and 1998, her total compensation was $25.7 million -- that's more than any other Enron employee during that time, including Ken Lay ($16.7 million) and Jeff Skilling ($25.4 million). By 1998, she was named vice chairman of the Enron board and held voting power on more stock than anyone else on the board except for Robert Belfer, Lay and Skilling. Despite her wealth of assets, Enron began treating Mark like a favored third-world country. In 1998, Enron forgave all of the principal and interest on a $955,343 loan the company had granted her in 1997. In early 1999, Enron did even more, pardoning an additional $700,000 loan the company made to her in 1998.
She also spent plenty of the company's money. While traveling, she insisted on limousines and the finest hotels. And she was apparently allergic to commercial airlines. According to Enron's proxies, her personal use of the company's jets cost over $141,000 for 1997 and 1998 alone. One estimate put her air travel at 300,000 miles per year, meaning the expense of keeping Mark aloft in Enron's jets for business travel likely cost millions of dollars per year. Personnel at Enron's international unit dreaded Mark's visits, not because she would see anything they didn't want her to see but because, as one executive said, "whenever her jet touched down, we knew it was going to cost our project $60,000." In addition to the salary, loans and perks, Mark earned big cash bonuses on many of Enron's international projects. Her 1998 employment agreement with the company shows she was paid more than $3 million for two relatively small overseas projects.
With all her newfound wealth, Mark couldn't live in just any Houston neighborhood. She was a big shot and therefore belonged in River Oaks. So in September 1998, she bought a beautiful $2 million property complete with 2.3 acres of land and a big red brick home, in an area of River Oaks known as Tall Timbers. It wasn't quite up to her style, though, so Mark had the house completely remodeled in 1999. The remodeling left her with a 10,286-square-foot home with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, two half-bathrooms and a swimming pool. Not bad for a girl who started on a rural farm.
After getting Dabhol off the ground, Mark decided to get into the water business. And by mid-1998, she became convinced that Wessex Water was the perfect choice upon which to build her new water company, Azurix.
Wessex, which provides water or wastewater service to about 2.5 million people in southwestern England, was among the most profitable water utilities in the United Kingdom. In July 1998, after several weeks of negotiations headed by Mark, Enron announced it would buy Wessex in a deal worth $2.88 billion. The water business is "a logical extension of Enron's expertise developed in the worldwide energy business," crowed Ken Lay in a press release sent out the day the deal was announced. Wessex's operations combined with Enron's "expertise in energy infrastructure project development, asset management, regulatory, finance and risk management services, will enable the new company to become a strong competitor in the global water industry," he predicted.
On the surface, it wasn't a bad idea. Enron had pioneered the gas and electricity trading businesses. It could do the same with water. The water treatment business is energy-intensive. Water engineers point out that about one-third of the cost of moving and treating water is energy-related. Enron viewed itself as the king of the energy business, and therefore, it could get a twofer in the water business. Enron could not only provide the power and the energy risk management tools a water utility might need, it could also run that utility itself, thereby increasing its potential profits.
Furthermore, Enron saw the global water industry as a regulated business that was going to be deregulated and operated by private companies (again, a parallel to gas and power). When that deregulation occurred in countries around the world, Enron wanted to be there, with assets on the ground. Once it owned a big asset such as Wessex or a water utility in another country, it could use its risk management and trading skills to make money by selling water to water-short regions and buying it from water-rich areas. It might also be able to profit by selling lower-cost power from an Enron power plant to the water utility. To do that, it would buy water utilities in target countries. The business plan, known as a roll-up strategy, had worked in such other sectors as trash (like Houston-based Waste Management) and funeral homes (like Houston-based Service Corporation International).
The idea was simple: Azurix would acquire a lot of small companies and then use their cash flow to pay off the debt needed to buy them in the first place. In the process, it would gain economies of scale. But there were problems with the strategy.
The world's water utilities have few interconnection points, a fact that makes moving and trading water very difficult. In the gas business, pipelines intersect in locations like the Henry Hub or the Katy Hub, where gas from one company can be transferred to another. In the electricity business, large utilities may not share generating plants, but their power lines often have overlapping service territories. That means that utilities can ship or "wheel" power from one location to another over existing power lines, and they can do it almost instantly, at very little cost.
Water's a different story. Unlike gas and power, it's heavy, 8.33 pounds per gallon. That means it's very expensive to move long distances. In addition, water is a highly variable commodity. Gas and power have very little variation. A BTU of gas and a kilowatt of electricity are virtually identical, no matter where they're delivered. Not so with water, which can have wildly divergent characteristics, like taste, salinity and turbidity.
Those characteristics matter. They matter a lot. Water comes freighted with an entirely different political and social sensibility than gas or electricity ever will. Water has religious, nationalist and political overtones in virtually every region of the world. And unlike gas and power, people are not willing to pay high prices for it. Water is viewed as a birthright, not a luxury. And towns, cities and countries are willing to dispatch activists, lawyers and even armies to protect what they view as "their" water. As Mark Twain famously wrote, "whiskey's for drinking, water's for fighting."
Alas, the history of water and its political significance mattered little to Mark and her acolytes at Azurix. Mark made her reputation by moving at warp speed and then accelerating from there. Her focus was on doing deals and more deals, not on thinking about strategic moves or water's sociopolitical significance. Her hurry-up mentality meant Azurix needed to do an initial public offering, and quick. After all, the equity markets were booming. In 1998 alone, American companies raised $36.8 billion from IPOs. Of that amount, more than $2.7 billion was raised in IPOs conducted for nearly four dozen Internet companies. Azurix's idea to take on the world water business was certainly as good as dogfood.com or any of the other digital Ponzi schemes that were attracting millions of dollars of new funding. So they set their IPO for June 9, 1999. And within a few days of going public, Mark's stock options in Azurix were worth about $50 million.
But as any good cook knows, haste makes waste. In the case of Azurix, it led to a decision that arguably sealed the company's fate almost before it was born: Just before the IPO, Azurix paid $438.6 million for the right to provide some two million people in and around Buenos Aires with drinking water. The next-highest bid was about $150 million.
The stupendously high bid was the result of poor planning, poor communication and poor judgment. Shortly after Azurix won the bid for the water utility, the company's lead managers found out that the headquarters building, where the utility had been run for many years, was not included in the deal. The majority of the staff needed to run the utility wasn't included, either. Within days of the Azurix takeover, the company discovered that thousands of billing records from the old utility were lost. That meant that right off the bat, Azurix's revenues in Buenos Aires would be far lower than expected.
But even if the Buenos Aires debacle wasn't going to kill Azurix, Rebecca Mark's free-spending ways were. "Azurix operated as if it were a Fortune 500 company from the beginning," said Colin Skellett, the CEO of Wessex. "The water business is pretty much a nickel-and-dime business. Your whole focus is on driving out every bit of cost. To them, expenses didn't seem to matter. In the first year, we were bemused. We thought they knew what they were doing."
Ah, but that's just it. Graduates of the Harvard Business School act like they know what they're doing. They went to Harvard, didn't they? But when it came to managing cash and cash flow, Rebecca Mark was just as clueless as her fellow Harvard Business School graduate: Jeff Skilling. Like Skilling, Mark spent cash as though she owned a currency printer.
Mark decided that Azurix, which had offices in Houston's Three Allen Center, needed a new stairway between the ninth and tenth floors. So the company installed a beautiful, curved stairway with glass panels under the banisters. Insiders say it cost $1 million. The company spent $5.5 million building a swank new office in London, a few blocks from Big Ben. Azurix signed a 15-year lease on the 23,000-square-foot office that was going to cost the firm about $130,000 a month. "It was meant to be the European headquarters for Azurix, so it was definitely top-of-the-line space," commented a source who managed the company's facilities. Azurix never moved in.
Azurix also planned to spend tens of millions of dollars buying Synagro Technologies, a Houston company that processes sewage sludge. Synagro was going to be an integral part of Azurix's growth plan. But in late October 1999, Azurix suddenly called the deal off, apparently after company officials realized they couldn't afford to buy Synagro. That story played out with Enron later paying Synagro $6 million to settle lawsuits related to Azurix's actions.
The company took another big hit in November 1999, when Britain's director general of water services announced a 12 percent rate cut for all of Azurix's customers in southern England. The rate cut had been rumored for a long time and it quickly began hamstringing the company's cash flow.
On November 4, 1999, Azurix's stock dropped by 40 percent after the company warned that it would miss its fourth-quarter profit targets. The company blamed the shortfall on high start-up costs. Indeed, in a little more than six months, Azurix had burned through nearly all of the $695 million it had raised in its initial public offering. The cash shortage was so bad, there were questions about whether the company would even have enough money to make payroll.
Nevertheless, Mark didn't spare expenses when it came to her salary. Azurix paid her $710,000 a year to head a company that was losing money hand over fist. The company also made sure she didn't have to fly with commoners. In 1999 alone, the company gave Mark an additional $101,146 to cover her personal use of the company's aircraft.
In early 2000, the Azurix board authorized Mark's plan to save the company by getting another capital infusion from Wall Street. The company floated $599.8 million in junk bonds, one-third of which paid 10.75 percent interest, in an effort to stabilize the business and continue buying new utilities around the world.
It didn't work. By the summer of 2000, Azurix was drowning in red ink. A few months earlier, an algae bloom in one of the company's water treatment plants had fouled Buenos Aires's drinking water. The entire city was in an uproar. Revenues from Argentina, once a sporadic stream, were now a bare trickle.
The handwriting was on the wall. And on August 25, 2000, Mark resigned as chairman and CEO of Azurix and gave up her seat on Enron's board of directors. But Mark's arrogance didn't subside with the failure of Azurix. Nor did her belief in her ability to spin the facts. In early 2002, she told Vanity Fair that the water company "wasn't a disaster. We couldn't survive as a public company because we didn't have earnings sufficient to support the growth of the stock."
So Azurix wasn't a disaster. It just didn't have "earnings sufficient to support the growth of the stock." That's a beautifully crafted phrase to describe a dog of a company that should never have gone public in the first place. In the end, Mark's vision -- the commodification of water, water trading, yet more fawning profiles of her in the business press -- landed with a stinging belly flop. And Azurix, the company that was to "become a major global water company," lasted as a publicly traded entity for just 21 months.
By December 2, 2001, when Enron filed for bankruptcy, Rebecca Mark was long gone. And big rich. Three months before she quit Azurix, she sold 104,240 Enron shares, a move that brought her total stock-sale proceeds at Enron to $82.5 million. (That figure does include the cost of the stock to Mark, therefore the amount Mark realized from the sales is likely somewhat lower.) Counting all the salary, stock options and loans, Mark probably banked somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million. That's a truly staggering sum when you consider that her misguided deals in India, Britain, Argentina and elsewhere cost investors at least $2 billion.
Dabhol, Mark's vision for India, has failed. Enron shut the plant down in May 2001 because the Indian government refused to pay for the power it produced. The Indians said -- surprise! -- that the electricity being generated by the plant was too expensive. In fact, Enron insiders say that in 2000, the electricity from Dabhol was costing as much as 18 cents per kilowatt-hour, or about twice the amount now being paid by Houston residents. Thus despite an investment of more than $2 billion -- about $900 million of it Enron's -- Dabhol now generates nothing more than some very expensive rust.
Azurix, Mark's wet dream, came to a similarly disastrous end. In March, Enron sold Wessex Water -- the jewel in Mark's Azurix crown -- to a Malaysian company, YTL Power International, for $1.76 billion, a loss of just over $1.1 billion. Enron hasn't been able to sell the Buenos Aires concession and is now hoping to just walk away from it.
Today, the woman who prefers Armani is all dressed up with nowhere to go. Not that she needs to go anywhere, mind you. Mark is still rich, gorgeous and married again. Her new husband is Michael Jusbasche, a rich Bolivian-born businessman. The two live in her plush house in River Oaks with a newly adopted child and the two boys from her previous marriage. They support a few local causes, including the Awty International School, a very chic (the school's Web site is in both English and French), very expensive multi-language prep school in west Houston.
This all-but-invisible version of Rebecca Mark is remarkably different from the one she showed the world during a 1996 interview with Fortune. "I enjoy being a world-class problem solver," Mark told the magazine. "I'm constantly asking, 'How far can I go? How much can I do?' "
Unfortunately for Enron and its investors, she did far too much.
An excerpt adapted from the book, Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron, by Robert Bryce, © 2002. Reprinted by arrangement with Public Affairs, a member of the Perseus Books Group. All rights reserved.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.