Back in the 1990s, Tyco Plastics & Adhesives Group became one of the biggest players in the North American market for plastic film. The company built an empire on acquisitions -- for a while, it seemed like Tyco was buying a half a dozen small film extruders every year. The architect of that strategy was Dennis Kozlowski, then-CEO of Tyco International Ltd., a conglomerate modeled off of General Electric Co., with a high-flying manager who was frequently quoted in the business press, or photographed sailing his fancy yacht. Kozlowski eventually crashed and burned, convicted of tax evasion. Today he's in the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy, N.Y., where he was interviewed recently by business reporter Peter Hossli. Hossli has posted his very interesting Q&A interview with Kozlowski. It doesn't go into plastics-related details -- this story is more about how his life has changed behind bars. Here's a taste:
You've been in this prison for a couple of months now. Have you made friends? Kozlowski: I'm in a protected custody unit. Right now there are 13 of us in the unit and the interaction is fairly limited. We have nothing in common. There are no inmates I would reasonably have over to my house for lunch. Most of them are here for sexual crimes with children. I never thought I would be sitting around and taking my meals with and sharing the same space with lots of child molesters. What do you tell them why you're in here? Kozlowski: People tend to know why I'm here even before I got here. I was told by one of the officers here, "Don't say anything as to the reason why you're here." When I got here, one of the inmates here already had one of the magazines about my conviction. There are no secrets in jail. Why are you here? Kozlowski: I was a victim of the times. I was prosecuted at a time that Enron and Worldcom and other companies got into big trouble and went bankrupt and hurt a lot of investors and hurt a lot of employees in the process. You were convicted for tax evasion on an art deal, and for stealing bonuses. Kozlowski: I think the jury got it wrong. I believe I earned those bonuses. I think I'm here simply because of the times. People lost money in the stock market in 2001 and 2002. Somebody had to be blamed for that. I became the poster boy for that. I still firmly believe I am not guilty of any crime that they've charged me with and that the jury convicted me of.Kozlowski definitely was his era's poster boy for executive excess. It's interesting to see how he's doing in prison -- and how he explains the infamous $2 million birthday party for his wife in Sardinia, and the $6,000 shower curtains.