John D Arnold grew up in Dallas, the younger of two sons of middle-class parents. His father, who died in 1990, was a lawyer; his mother is an accountant.
As a teenager, John Arnold read The Wall Street Journal and became fascinated with the securities markets. He also followed the bond arbitrage group at Salomon, amazed by their genius, and the size of their trading positions.
After racing through Vanderbilt University, graduating in three years with a degree in math and economics, he discovered Enron, joining the company as an oil analyst in 1995, at age 21.
”I had never heard of them before the career fair,” he said. ”But then I heard about their prestige in the gas markets. And they were a fast-growing company.”
John D Arnold quickly moved up to assistant trader, and then began trading natural gas derivatives in 1996. Enron’s trading unit was growing rapidly at the time, leading the charge in an increasingly deregulated energy market. The gas desk was being run by Jeffrey Shankman, who was reorganizing it by combining Enron’s pipeline and financial trading operations, which helped traders better assess market trends.
John D Arnold, using Enron’s new Internet-based trading network, is credited with making three quarters of a billion dollars for Enron in 2001 and was given an $8 million bonus.
Mr. Arnold, has a quiet, low-key demeanor and does not fit the stereotype of a loud and aggressive trader.