NEW YORK — These days, his shower curtain is from Bed Bath & Beyond, in a nondescript white. On the 35th floor of a two-bedroom rental overlooking the East River, L. Dennis Kozlowski lives with his new wife, Kimberly, in relative modesty — at least compared with his previous life as the extravagant chief executive of the conglomerate Tyco International.
Gone are the Renoir and the Monet. There are no souvenirs from that iniquitous $2 million Roman-orgy birthday he threw in Sardinia in 2001, complete with Jimmy Buffett on guitar and an ice sculpture of “David” urinating Stolichnaya.
And there’s no $6,000 gold-and-burgundy shower curtain — the one that landed him on the cover of The New York Post under the headline “OINK, OINK.”
Ten years and a lifetime ago, Kozlowski reigned as the archetype of avarice. It is what helped lead to his conviction in 2005 for looting nearly $100 million from Tyco, for which he served 6½ years in prison. That showy shower curtain was in his corporate residence on Fifth Avenue — paid for with Tyco funds.
“I was piggy,” he said during a series of recent interviews with The New York Times. “But I’m not that person anymore.”
Kozlowski was among the most caricatured of imperial chief executives in an epoch of white-collar crime that included Bernard J. Ebbers of WorldCom and Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling of Enron. But unlike businesses plundered by other felons, Kozlowski’s Tyco has thrived, employing 57,000. Enron and WorldCom became corporate corpses.
Kozlowski, 68, has paid his debt to society. State parole officials sent a letter last week informing him that he is entirely free of penal supervision. And, in his view, he is finally able to talk about life in prison, about his last three years in Manhattan on work-release and parole, and about a future.
“I’ve waited for freedom for a long time,” said Kozlowski, beside a model of Endeavour, the 130-foot yacht built for the 1934 America’s Cup that he used to own.
He describes how he adores his wife (his third), treasures time with his grandchildren, happily endures half a dozen state-deferred root canals, and appreciates a fresh avocado as only a free man can.
Kozlowski had been celebrated on magazine covers as “Deal-a-Day Dennis,” transforming a tiny New England manufacturer into a multinational worth more than $120 billion. [The conglomerate was broken up into several big pieces after Kozlowski’s downfall. One was a collection of medical businesses that became Covidien PLC in Mansfield, Mass.; it was later sold to Medtronic.]
Even as he was enriching himself, though, he was known at Tyco as a ruthless cost-cutter. Then, it was over. Kozlowski’s indictment for evading 8.25 percent sales tax on $14 million of artwork resulted in a broader Tyco internal inquiry. That led to new criminal charges; he was convicted of taking unauthorized bonuses, abusing corporate loan programs, falsifying records, and conspiracy. In addition to jail, Kozlowski had to pay $167 million in restitution and fines.
Today, he acknowledges making mistakes. He was too invested in the game: In just his last four years at Tyco, he made more than $300 million, according to regulatory filings. “I’d go to Harvard Business School and get a standing ovation when I was introduced as the highest-paid CEO in the country,” he recalled.
Even so, he maintains he was unfairly convicted, especially in light of how few big names were brought to trial in the most recent period of Wall Street malfeasance. “After 2008,” he said, “nobody was prosecuted.”
Though Kozlowski said he “served my time with some agony,” two things seemed to get him through it. He tried to laugh at the absurdity of incarcerated life — and, fortuitously, he met his future wife.
Because Kozlowski was classified a high-profile inmate at a facility near Utica, he spent his time in “protective custody,” in his own 10-by-10-foot cell, but had to be in it many hours more than the typical prisoner.
His life brightened when he met Kimberly Fusaro. She had known him in passing in the mid-1990s when she was a Wall Street trader. Nearly 15 years later, during a difficult divorce, she decided to write to Kozlowski. She asked if he needed anything. Visitors, he replied. She stopped by a month later, in September 2009 — and every weekend until his release. Twice a month — the prison limit — she sent him 35 pounds of avocados, tomatoes, and peaches and whatever else was growing in her garden on Long Island. “She’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Kozlowski said. “Ever.”
After he won work-release, he indulged in a few Manhattan pleasures: E.J.’s Luncheonette for breakfast, and 5 miles a day of walking. He learned how to take the No. 2 and No. 3 trains. “Never,” he said, “have I been so happy about riding the subway.” He spends weekdays in a small Midtown office on “low-level consulting” on mergers and acquisitions and serves on the board of Fortune Society, which assists former convicts.
He would not discuss his assets but “owns no real estate” and is no longer fabulously wealthy. He still owns a “minuscule percentage” of the New York Yankees that might be worth “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.” He hopes to open his own “small M&A advisory shop.” He also plans more travel, because for the last three years, he had a 9 p.m. curfew.