The shower curtain, bought by his decorator on Tyco International’s tab for an extravagantly furnished Manhattan apartment, became perhaps the most notable symbol of an era of corporate excess and conspicuous consumption.
“I understand why a $6,000 shower curtain seems indefensible,” Mr. Kozlowski, Tyco’s former chief executive, said on the eve of his retrial on charges of looting the company. “But I didn’t know about it. I just wasn’t even aware of it. If somebody had come to me and said, ‘Do you want to spend $6,000 on a shower curtain in that apartment?’ I would have said, ‘Absolutely not. Absolutely not.’ ”
Mr. Kozlowski was sitting in a dreary conference room at his lawyers’ office in Midtown Manhattan at eight in the morning recently, nursing his third cup of coffee. Dressed in a black shirt, a pair of jeans and hiking boots, he did not look much like a swashbuckling, custom-suit-wearing chief executive.
He did not sound like one either. Soft-spoken and uncharacteristically reticent at times, Mr. Kozlowski, in his first extensive interview since he was charged more than two years ago with stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from Tyco, said that he was innocent and that the public perception of him was misguided.
“People think that I’m a greedy guy; that I was overcompensated,” he said, leaning forward in his chair. “Greed, I think, is the key word. But while I did earn enormous sums of money, which for a poor kid from Newark was spectacular, I worked my butt off and it was all based on my performance in Tyco’s long established pay-for-performance culture.”
That image of greed, of course, stems from accusations that he not only awarded himself unauthorized bonuses, but that he had the company also pick up the costs of items like a $15,000 umbrella stand and half the cost of a multimillion-dollar birthday party for his wife on the Italian island of Sardinia, with a now notorious ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s “David” that flowed vodka.
But Mr. Kozlowski, who faces a second trial on Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, portrayed himself as a self-made entrepreneur who has become the victim of an overzealous prosecutor interested in sensational headlines and a board trying to protect itself from shareholder lawsuits. While clearly anxious about the retrial and humbled by the enormity of the situation, he remained unapologetic about his conduct at Tyco.
“I firmly believe that I never did or intended to do anything wrong,” he said. “I never thought in my wildest imagination I or any of us did anything wrong my entire time there. I still cannot believe that they say words like larceny.”
At the first trial of Mr. Kozlowski and Mark H. Swartz, Tyco’s former chief financial officer, prosecutors drew a very different portrait, describing two calculating, arrogant executives who treated the company like their own personal piggy bank. “They are here not because they blurred the line between themselves and Tyco,” said Ann Donnelly, an assistant district attorney in her closing statement. “They are here because they obliterated it, because they erased it.”
The first trial ended last April in a mistrial after six months. During the deliberations, a juror who was prepared to acquit on all charges appeared to make an “O.K.” sign with her hand to defense lawyers, igniting a media firestorm that resulted in the juror’s name being disclosed and led to a mistrial after the juror received a threatening letter.