Magazine article Management Today

Books: Kozlowski: Victim or Villain?

Magazine article Management Today

Books: Kozlowski: Victim or Villain?

Article excerpt

Convicted of corporate fraud, the boss of US firm Tyco went to jail for nine years. But this articulate account of his deeds made Nick Leeson think twice about his guilt.

Taking Down the Lion

Catherine S Neal

Palgrave Macmillan, pounds 18.89.

I have to admit that I approached reviewing this book with some trepidation. I certainly do not have a morbid fascination with financial scandal and tend to fast forward to my own conclusions fairly quickly I'm also quite opinionated, but I tried to approach the story of former Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowksi, who was jailed for fraud in 2005, in a more reasoned and rational manner than I normally would and not jump to conclusions.

Initially, I had him down as guilty, but now I don't think he is, although I am undecided as to whether or not he is completely exonerated. He had been convicted of corporate fraud at the electronics, healthcare, engineering and security business to the tune of over dollars 100m and received an eight to 25-year jail term. He was released on parole last month. Tyco has been bundled together with Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing, but that is unfair as it continues to trade and prosper, admittedly in various guises.

Catherine Neal seems to have had unrivalled access to Kozlowski Initially, I found her approach a bit disconcerting and overly sympathetic to his cause, but, as the book progresses, it rationalises itself out to a definitive slant on what she believes is the truth.

Her research took more than two and a half years, so this is far from an impulsive work, as some books are when they are rushed towards publication. My initial knowledge of the story being limited, at times I was left questioning if there had been a serious miscarriage of justice, or wondering if the author was simply deluded. But I ended up opting, like the author, for the former. Kweku Adeboli, Jerome Kerviel, Leeson et al are all guilty as charged, Kozlowski - I am not so sure.

Having spent time in prison for my own involvement in the financial scandal that led to the collapse of Barings Bank, I am not easily convinced of someone's innocence. I knew all the time what I was doing and, most importantly, that I shouldn't be doing it, even though there was no real criminal intent at first.

I spent a total of 52 months in prison - considerably less than Kozlowski - and lost count of the number of inmates who professed their innocence. None was, but, thanks to the clever way in which the author lays out the history of Kozlowski's rise and fall and the articulate way in which she examines the charges against him, this book suggests that there is a very real chance he is both innocent and a victim. …

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