Coffee Talk With Jeff Skilling

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As the Supreme Court prepares to decide whether or not Jeffrey Skilling received a fair trial, Fortune's Archelle Georgiou recalls her visit with the Enron CEO at his prison in Minnesota two years ago. It was awkward.

Ninety minutes into our meeting, Skilling lowered his eyes to the floor. "I apologize for asking," he said, embarrassment in his voice. "Could you buy me a cup of coffee? Inmates aren't allowed to touch money or approach the machines. They could put me in solitary for a week." As I got his French-vanilla latte and recovered from astonishment that a man who had led a $110 billion company was not allowed to handle two quarters, I took the opportunity to get more personal, asking, "What is life like in jail? What is the scariest part of being here?"

Strangely, Skilling's response to this question is not "shower time" but "complex carbohydrates."

"You don't want to get sick in here," he said, as he talked about practicing yoga, walking four miles a day, and avoiding carbohydrate-heavy meals to stay fit.

Unsurprisingly, he also spends a lot of time mulling over his case and wondering what might have been if, for instance, he hadn't said guilty-sounding things like "They're onto us!" to a group of executives when a negative report came out about the company (even though he meant it as a joke, obviously), or had hired better PR when the shit was going down to minimize the whole "executives bankrupted thousands of employees and shareholders to serve their own greed" story line, or if the government hadn't been so mean — really, it was basically "prosecutorial abuse" when you think about it. But most of the time he's just, you know, lonely.

He talked about spending hours reviewing legal documents and sounded optimistic, but then said quietly, "If this doesn't work, I am going to be in here for a long time. You can visit if you want. It's nice to have someone new to talk to."

Related:

Skilling speaks: Enron CEO's jailhouse interview [CNN]