Lay, 64, was at his vacation home near Aspen, Colorado, awaiting sentencing, and was expected to face decades in prison for his fraud and conspiracy convictions linked to Enron’s 2001 bankruptcy.
“Ken Lay passed away early this morning,” Lay family spokeswoman Kelly Kimberly said in a statement. Autopsy results would not be available until later in the week but a pastor at the Lay family’s church in Houston said the cause of death was apparently a heart attack.
Lay and another former Enron CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, were found guilty of hiding the financial ruin at Enron, the company they built into the seventh largest in the United States.
Once a confidant of former President George H.W. Bush and dubbed “Kenny boy” by President George W. Bush, Lay often appeared fatigued during the four-month trial, but there was no indication that he had suffered any adverse health effects.
“I guess you could say in the last few years I’ve achieved the American nightmare,” Lay told the jury from the witness stand during the trial.
Skilling was not available for comment, although his lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said the former Lay protege was deeply saddened by the death.
“He’s distraught over Ken’s passing,” Petrocelli said. “He was a very good friend and a good colleague.”