NEW YORK (AP) _ The front-runner to replace Kenneth Lay as chief executive of embattled Enron Corp. is a New York bankruptcy reorganization expert whose past clients include Bradlees, Cumberland Farms and Pegasus Gold Corp., a person familiar with the situation said.
Stephen Cooper, managing principal of the reorganization adviser Zolfo Cooper, could be named to run Enron within several days and planned to fly to Houston Friday to meet with company executives, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity and confirmed earlier published reports.
Enron spokesman Eric Thode declined to comment on Cooper or the company's progress in selecting a successor to Lay, who resigned as chairman and chief executive Wednesday night.
Zolfo Cooper officials did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
On its Web site, Zolfo Cooper says its executives ``have hands-on leadership experience under adverse conditions.''
``Working as senior management or as part of a crisis team, we stabilize the business,'' the site says. ``Thus, we gain the necessary time to assess the situation, design, and implement programs to restore business' vitality and profitability. We maximize value by rebuilding the management process and reorganizing the business or prepare it for sale.''
Enron's collapse began in mid-October after the company announced a $618 million third-quarter loss and a $1.2 billion reduction in the company's equity. Subsequent revelations showed that the company masked debt in questionable partnerships that benefited some company executives.
The company _ once No. 7 on the Fortune magazine list of the 500 largest companies _ filed for bankruptcy protection to reorganize on Dec. 2. Last week, a judge approved a plan that allows investment bank UBS Warburg to take over the company's energy trading operation, which accounted for 90 percent of Enron's $101 billion in revenue in 2000.