After spending more than eight years as an inmate in the New York State prison system, former Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowski was granted parole in December 2013.
He’ll be released on January 17, 2014, eleven and a half years after he was indicted by former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau, the legendary prosecutor known for his dogged pursuit of white-collar criminals in New York City.
You probably remember Kozlowski as the guy who bought a $US6,000 shower curtain. Or as the guy who threw a two million dollar birthday bash where scantily clad men and women and a vodka-urinating ice sculpture of David enhanced the Roman-orgy themed party atmosphere. Kozlowski’s lavish lifestyle was often lambasted by the media after he was indicted by the Manhattan DA in 2002.
What you may not remember is Kozlowski as the charismatic CEO who headed Tyco during the 1990s when the company grew from a small New Hampshire enterprise into a $US40 billion a year global giant that employed 250,000 people and operated in more than 100 countries. During Kozlowski’s decade as CEO, Tyco successfully acquired hundreds of companies — some for tens of billions of dollars. Kozlowski probably has more direct experience with successful mergers and acquisitions than anyone, ever, and Tyco benefitted immensely from his extraordinary ability to target, analyse, acquire, and quickly enhance the value of companies in a variety of industries all over the world.
At the pinnacle of his career, Kozlowski was accused of serious felonies related to his management of Tyco. Along with then Tyco CFO Mark Swartz, Kozlowski allegedly took more than $US100 million in compensation that wasn’t approved by the Tyco Board of Directors. Kozlowski and Swartz were tried twice.
After six long months, dozens of witnesses, and tens of millions of dollars in legal fees, the first trial ended in a mistrial during jury deliberations. Several months later, there was another lengthy trial. At the conclusion of five additional months of trial, the jury found Kozlowski and Swartz guilty of dozens of felony charges that sent the two former executives to state prison for many years. In January of 2014, after serving the maximum minimum sentence (the judge could have sentenced Kozlowski and Swartz to one year, but opted to impose the maximum minimum sentence of 8 1/3 years), the two will be paroled.
So what’s next for Dennis Kozlowski? There’s really no chance he’ll reoffend. Let’s face it — he’ll never again be in a position to wrongfully take compensation from a publicly traded corporation.
As a parolee, his life and activities will be restricted for a while. One of the requirements of his parole will be finding and keeping a job. So what will he do? Most people look for a job where they can use their prior experience. But Kozlowski will never again be a corporate executive. Clearly, the former CEO has valuable skills, but his character has been so severely damaged by the media for more than a decade, it’s going to be difficult for him to rehabilitate his image and move forward. He somehow has to overcome the $US6,000 shower curtain, the birthday party, the hundreds of articles and images that portrayed him as a greedy, evil corporate executive, and the stigma of being a convicted felon who pilfered millions of dollars.
As Kozlowski re-enters society, here’s what everyone should know. The Dennis Kozlowski character created by the media is not the real Dennis Kozlowski. So much that has been written and said about him, while interesting because of its sensational outrageousness, is factually inaccurate.
Kozlowski is a better person than the guy portrayed in the media for the past eleven years. We must remember that not everything we read is accurate. Sometimes, things are written simply to sell more newspapers or to get more online hits. Perhaps it’s time to give Dennis Kozlowski a break — allow him to rebuild his life without any further public castigation, name-calling, and mischaracterizations.
While it will undoubtedly be better than the past eleven years, life after prison won’t be easy for Dennis Kozlowski. It will be interesting to see if the media and public opinion will allow Kozlowski to shed the caricature of the greedy CEO and move forward. Will he be able to put the conviction behind him? Kozlowski served a long sentence — much longer than those served by most violent criminals. Hopefully, his punishment will end and Kozlowski will be allowed a productive, uneventful third act.
Catherine S. Neal, author of Taking Down the Lion: The Triumphant Rise and Tragic Fall of Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski, is an Associate Professor of Business Ethics and Business Law in the Haile/US Bank College of Business at Northern Kentucky University. She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Law where she was a Corporate Law Fellow.
Professor Neal was granted unprecedented access to Dennis Kozlowski, his papers, attorneys, family, friends, and former Tyco colleagues, as well as transcripts and evidence from two criminal trials. Neal’s research included interviews with former Manhattan DA Robert Mortgenthau, the foreman of the jury that convicted Kozlowski, and key Tyco insiders.
For more information about the book please visit the publisher’s website.