In the dock stands the already diminished figure of Dennis Kozlowski, a well-padded Nineties uber-boss whose remarkable taste for company-financed excess was his spectacular undoing. To say that Kozlowski, 51, who ran the Tyco International conglomerate, enjoyed a lavish lifestyle scarcely does justice to the truly heroic scale of his spending in his prime years.
The stories are already the stuff of legend. With colleagues such as keeper of the company pursestrings Mark Swartz, ruddy-faced Kozlowski extravagantly spent his way through the peak years of the bull market.
Homes included a $13.5m waterside estate in Boca Raton, Florida, and an $18m Fifth Avenue apartment, decorated with Renoirs and Monets as well as the now-notorious shower curtain. His yacht was a teak-decked beauty called Endeavour, a 130ft sloop that costs $700,000 a year to run. There were also the donations to ‘charidee’ and other worthy causes such as – excruciatingly – a chair in corporate governance at Cambridge University.
The reign of King Kozlowski perhaps reached its apogee of avarice with a now-famous $2m 40th birthday party for his wife Karen in 2001. The celebration, the bill for which is said largely to have been paid by Tyco shareholders, featured an ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s David with vodka streaming from its best-known appendage.
Lawyers for Kozlowski have asked for video tapes of the party to be sealed ahead of the trial to prevent any chance of jurors seeing them and being influenced by its decadent images of bacchanalian festivity.
Although Kozlowski – known as ‘Koz’ in the New York tabloids – has been stripped of his post and faces prison, the lifestyle is still far better than comfortable. On Friday his daughter Sandra is being married on board Endeavour. The wedding is estimated to be costing $200,000.
Kozlowski and his co-defendants, who deny wrongdoing, are accused of looting a total of $600m from Tyco through unauthorised loans, bonuses and stock sales to fund their lifestyle. The outline of the likely defence constructed by their legal teams is already becoming-clear.
Kozlowski, the son of a Newark detective, will argue that he had always intended to repay the money, lent under the company’s Key Employee Loan Programme. His attorneys are also likely to claim that the funds had been paid with the full knowledge of auditors and that ‘all the right people knew’ what was going on.