A year ago or so, the air was thick with tales of corporate scandal, lost pension funds, big time theft and even bigger time prison sentences for the Enron gang. Then there was Dennis Kozlowski, CEO of Tyco, who was found guilty of – in effect – using Tyco's immense financial resources for what the prosecution described as his "own personal piggy bank."
You might remember the $6,000 shower curtain, and stealing over $100 million from the company.
60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer wondered how the man, who could whistle up a corporate jet on a whim or throw a two million dollar birthday party, was doing in his reduced circumstances and what's it like to go from "king of the world," to prisoner #05A4820, serving eight to 25 years behind bars.
60 Minutes caught up with Dennis Kozlowski at Mid-State Correctional Facility in upstate New York. "Guests" at the facility include murderers, drug dealers and pedophiles, and the odd multi-millionaire.
"In my wildest imagination, when I would project myself into my late 50's and early 60's, where I would be or what I would be doing. If I make a list of a hundred different places, or a hundred different things, here would never make that list," Kozlowski tells Safer.
He now earns a dollar a day, mopping floors and slinging hash to his fellow inmates. In January, Kozlowski spent a week in the hospital with a heart ailment and got to thinking.
Kozlowski has not really talked publicly until now; asked why he decided to speak now, he says, "When I was in the hospital in January, I was outside in the emergency room, feeling really uncomfortable and frightened. And that's when I've, you know, really made the firm decision that I wanted to go through and talk to you at this time."
He says he became very aware of his own mortality, and didn't want to leave the world "without at least an opportunity to talk about my side of the story, to the extent that I can talk about it."
He agreed to speak with one stipulation — that 60 Minutes would not include anyone else in this story.
Because of an appeal, he will not discuss the details of his case, but he will say he believes in the judicial system. "I think all that works. But in this case, the jury got it wrong."
That jury convicted him of 22 counts of grand larceny, conspiracy and securities fraud. His trials occurred in the wake of a white-collar crime wave: Enron, WorldCom and Martha Stewart.
The newshounds smelled blood. Accused of looting his company of hundreds of millions of dollars and living the life of a pasha at stockholder's expense, he was the living, breathing version of "Wall Street's" Gordon Gekko.
Up to a point: what is puzzling is why does a man who struggled so hard, so effectively to make it become so careless and stupid and arrogant? Born in a tenement on the wrong side of the tracks in Newark, N.J., Kozlowski worked his way through school.
"I played guitar in a band. I worked in a pharmacy. I worked in a carwash. So, you know, I had two or three jobs going at any given time, you know," he explains.
Where he grew up, Kozlowski says there weren't that many options. "Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, at the time, you know, you never thought of yourself growing up to become a CEO," he says.
He started at Tyco, then a small New Hampshire manufacturing company, as an accountant making $28,000 a year and worked his way up to CEO. He became known as "Deal-a-Day Dennis," constantly acquiring new businesses, and building Tyco from a $40 million company into a $40 billion conglomerate.