Taking Down the Lion book coverHow is it possible that Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski could have earned over $100 Million dollars in annual salary and not be a criminal?

That was the question rattling inside the heads of jurors as they deliberated the fate of Dennis Kozlowski. How could one person live in such a way that he had a $6,000 shower curtain, $15,000 dog-shaped umbrella stand, a $6,300 sewing basket, $2,900 worth of coat hangers and a set of sheets that cost $5,900?

These items of excess along with millions of dollars of art by Monet and others were housed in a Manhattan apartment that Kozlowski sleep in only a few dozen times a year and it was all paid for by his employer Tyco? He must have stolen millions of dollars. No person can legally earn that much money. Can they?

That was the mindset of New York State Prosecutor Robert Morganthau and a media determined in the wake of the bankruptcies of Enron and Global Crossing in the early 2000’s to expose corporate excess among executives. Dennis Kozlowski was going down and going down hard.

Catherine S. Neal is an Associate Professor of Business Ethics and Business Law in the College of Business at Northern Kentucky University. As the Kozlowski trials unfolded she was mesmerized by the questions posed.

Her life’s work had been in the study of Business Ethics and Law. Is it a crime to be unethical? Is it unethical to be paid over $100 Million Dollars annually? Kozlowski would be the perfect case study.

As a widely-admired CEO of Tyco International, Dennis Kozlowski grew a $20 Million New Hampshire based sprinkler inspection company into at $30 Billion international conglomerate. It was among the most profitable companies in the world.

Growing up poor Dennis Kozlowski intended to become rich. He had no interest to become famous, and it was famous that became his undoing. His lavish lifestyle brought such scrutiny that he became a symbol for corporate greed and a target for prosecution.

Catherine Neal began writing letters to Dennis Kozlowski during his eight years in a New York State Prison. Dennis referred to the prison as a “gated community” and his job in the prison as “laundry czar”. She was fascinated by his story. He wanted his story told.

Years of access and interviews with Kozlowski, Tyco executives, Prosecutor Morganthau, and hundreds of others to include jurors, and attorneys along with tens of thousands of pages of audits, minutes and trial transcripts provide for a complete and compelling story of The Triumphant Rise and Tragic Fall of Dennis Kozlowski.

As Catherine Neal writes, “When the truth is told, it’s clear the “good guys” were not all good, the “bad guys” not all bad, and that chasing the American Dream can lead to a tragic end.”

This book is fantastic. It is entertaining, enlightening and frightening!