Former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling declared he was “absolutely innocent” Monday, as he began to testify in his own defense in his fraud and conspiracy trial.

The 52-year-old one-time corporate celebrity, whose reputation as a business wunderkind shattered along with the company he once ran, also said he “never … not once” considered making a deal with prosecutors the way more than a dozen other Enron executives did.