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Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2002

Poor old Kenny!

February 23, 2002

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Shed no tears for the alleged plight of Linda and Kenneth Lay.

It wasn't too long ago that Linda Lay, the wife of chairman Kenneth Lay of Enron Corp. infamy, could be seen all teary and sobbing in those television film clips describing the couple's dearth of resources. The wife made it appear she and Ken had no money even to put food on their table after the collapse of the company the husband had headed with such disastrous results.

Mrs. Lay said she and Kenneth had lost millions of dollars and been left virtually destitute when the huge energy conglomerate went belly-up and had been left virtually destitute. For those caught in by this weepy scam, not to worry. The Lays will not wind up in any bread lines or spend nights on cots in homeless shelters.

For starters, there was that 3,015-square-foot home the Lays bought in 1991 for $1.95 million and sold recently for $10 million. The "cottage" as they called the site, was bought by Brad Bell, executive producer and head writer of a CBS soap opera. Seems the dirt on which the 1950s-type house sits is worth a lot more than the structure, which is due to be razed and replaced. That still leaves the Lays with their $10 million nest egg.

There's a lot more. As Mimi Avins of the Los Angeles Times points out:

"Before the collapse of Enron and the specter of stratosopheric legal bills mandated some quick de-accessioning, the couple owned three more houses and a lot in Aspen (where real estate is akin to gold, big gold). Besides the 'cottage,' they are also selling a 4,537-square-foot house for which they paid $4.825 million in November of 1999 (list price now $6.125 million) and a slightly larger house across the street, for which they paid $6.145 million in August 2000 (list price now $6.250). A three-acre lot in a subdivision of $5 million homes that face the ski runs of Ajax Mountain sold for more than $2 million on Feb. 12, the day Lay, 59, was in Washington exercising his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination."

Aspen, as the Lays clearly knew, has for some time been a marvelous place for people with money to invest in real estate.

"I've been selling property in Aspen for 25 years," says Carol Dopkin a real estate agent. "People who have significant wealth are comfortable parking it here, because historically, they haven't lost their principal and in the last few years there's been dramatic appreciation. There have been modest downturns of 10 or 15 percent, but most of the time it just goes up. That's particularly true in the high end of the market." The average home price in Aspen currently is $3.6 million.

No telling just how much the Lays will clear from the sales of their properties in the Colorado ski resort mecca; we can be sure their legal bills are going to be enormous.

But let's not turn to sack cloth and ashes and sentimental and sad violin music to grieve over their being "broke." A lot of the victims of the Enron scandal would love to be as "down and out" as the Lays.

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