Imagine a country-club dinner dance, with a bunch of old fogies and their wives shuffling around halfheartedly to the not-so-stirring sounds of Guy Lombardo and his All-Tuxedo Orchestra. Suddenly young Elvis comes crashing through the skylight, complete with gold-lame suit, shiny guitar, and gyrating hips. Half the waltzers faint; most of the others get angry or pouty. And a very few decide they like what they hear, tap their feet...start grabbing new partners, and suddenly are rocking to a very different tune.
In the staid world of regulated utilities and energy companies, Enron Corp. is that gate-crashing Elvis. Once a medium-sized player in the stupefyingly soporific gas-pipeline business, Enron in the past decade has become far and away the most vigorous agent of change in its industry, fundamentally altering how billions of dollars' worth of power--both gas and electric--is bought, moved, and sold, everywhere in the nation. . . .
Wall Street, at least, has learned to take Enron seriously. When the company announced to analysts in January that it was creating a way to trade excess capacity on fiber-optic networks, Merrill Lynch declared Enron a new-economy company. Paine Webber proclaimed it had "one of the deepest and most innovative management teams in the world." (That opinion is shared by Enron's peers, who've given it the highest score for innovation of any company on FORTUNE's Most Admired Companies in America survey four years in a row. Enron ranked first this year in quality of management too.) The day after Enron's analyst conference the stock climbed a Nasdaq-like 13 points, and it has doubled in price over the past 12 months. If you think there's nothing you can learn from some old gas-pipeline utility, take a closer look. . . .
Of course, not everybody was so excited. An official at MCI Worldcom, the biggest Internet backbone provider, scoffed. "What possible expertise could Enron have to help in the communications industry?" Hmm. Anyone hear Elvis tuning his guitar?
Fortune Magazine. April 17, 2000