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Where is `Mark the shark?'

Pratap Ravindran

MUMBAI, Feb. 8

EVEN as Mumbaikars track with bemusement the vicissitudes of Enron Corporation, a question lurks at the back of their mind: Where is Ms Rebecca P. Mark, former Enron Director and head of the company's international gas and power operations, who made Dabhol Power Corporation (DPC) happen?

After all, she couldn't possibly have just dropped out of sight after having pulled off the $1 billion power project - India's single largest foreign investment - amidst shrill allegations of widespread corruption, extensive litigation and so on.

Well, as a matter of fact, that is precisely what she's done.

To begin with, she's is no longer Ms Rebecca P. Mark - she calls herself Ms Rebecca Mark-Jusbasche after hyphenating her name with that of her husband - and is pretty much occupied in expanding her (hold on to your hats...!) cattle ranches.

She also spends most of her time serving on advisory boards at Yale and Harvard.

Business Week Online quotes her as saying that she is "surprised and saddened'' by what is happening at Enron and that she wishes "them all the best.''

But she is content to watch from the sidelines - after all, she did sell her 1.4 million Enron shares for nearly $80 million.

Ms Rebecca Mark had shot into prominence in 1991 when she persuaded Mr Kenneth L. Lay, till recently Enron's Chairman and CEO, to set up Enron Development Corporation to pursue overseas projects under her leadership. Enron Development was subsequently absorbed into Enron International, the business unit, which racked up some $20 billion worth of projects and, by the end of the nineties, accounted for roughly 40 per cent of Enron's profits.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Ms Rebecca Mark convinced the company brass that Enron could profitably privatise the $400-billion water industry, just as it had done with power.

And so Enron bought Britain's Wessex Water for $2.4 billion and established a water and wastewater treatment subsidiary that was spun off as Azurix Corporation.

Azurix lost no time in going public with an initial public offer of shares at a price of $19 per share - but, within a year of its IPO, witnessed a sharp erosion in its stock price to levels below the price at which it was initially bought by the investors.

According to analysts, the company didn't do well simply because it was a new player in a market that was fundamentally flawed.

Ms Rebecca Mark, once tagged among the 50 most powerful women in US business, quit the company in August 2000.

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Where is `Mark the shark?'

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