Jeff Skilling was once president of a company that (claimed to) rake in over $100 billion annually. Now he's had to kiss carbs good-bye ("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) and beg reporters visiting him in the joint to buy him a cup of coffee.
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?"
You wanna avoid this fate, which likely also includes asking Bubba's permission to have the night off? Skillings got some tips for avoiding unsolicited tips on the inside.
1. Don't say shit.
Skilling now sees that testifying may have hurt his chances for an acquittal, but he thought it was a risk worth taking to be able to speak openly about what happened. In retrospect, it wasn't.
2. Find a hack to write a piece telling people what a swell guy you are, who will ixnay on the whole eshay raudfray.
During the four years leading up to the trial, Skilling was visible in Congress and in the courtroom, but as a discredited CEO, he wasn't focused on his standing in the public's eyes. Looking back, he regrets not maintaining relationships with key industry advocates in and outside the media.
3. Realize that people don't "get" us, or our sense of humor, and will likely it against us.
In May 2001, Skilling famously said, "They're onto us" to a group of Enron executives about a negative analyst report on the company. Five years later he was defending himself by claiming that his comment was sarcasm, not an admission of guilt. Skilling nervously chuckled as he recalled when he was publicly edgy and impatient during the episode, but he quickly got serious and seemed self-reflective when he said, "Sarcasm is easily misinterpreted and can be a tremendous liability."