The extraordinary allegations made this month against Broadcom founder and former CEO Henry Nicholas will doubtless appear shocking to many.
Nicholas stands accused of a string of narcotics and securities violations and is the subject of lurid accounts not usually associated with the business of making networking chips. Among the tabloid-friendly counts, Nicholas is alleged to have:
"Conspired to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstacy”
“Conspired to open and maintain places for the purpose of distributing and using controlled substances”
“Engaged in fraud to obtain substantial quantities of prescription drugs”
Used “threats of physical violence and death and payments of money to attempt to conceal his unlawful conduct”
Even after being made aware that he was under investigation, Nicholas didn’t slow down, say US attorneys. Nicholas:
• “Assaulted a witness because he believed him to be cooperating with the government”
• “Threatened this witness that defendant would ‘chase him to the ends of earth’ if he ‘screwed him’”
• “Continued his illegal narcotics activities”
• “Fled the scene of a one-car accident and then reimbursed the bodyguard for the citation after the bodyguard falsely told the police that it was he, and not defendant, who was driving.”
So far, so juicy, and after that little lot, the securities allegations might appear a little prosaic, although against other backgrounds they would look pretty strong stuff. Nicholas:
• “Conspired to commit securities fraud”
• “Lied to Broadcom’s auditors”
• “Falsified Broadcom’s books and records”
If you have the stomach for it, there is plenty more where this comes from, including tales of prostitutes, YouTube videos, bugs, large cash sums, misleading customs declarations, Betty Ford clinics ($63,000 per month would you believe?), Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini cars, political donations, personal aircraft, obtaining trade secrets through entertainment, spiking drinks, swords and guns.
The Henry Nicholas story, as alleged, reads like something from a rock star or Hollywood memoir but the technology business and debauchery have always crossed over. Sometimes, as in the case of the Micromuse founder Chris Dawes, the stories are just as shocking, although in the vast majority of cases, they are plain old living it up with attendant bad habits and minor indiscretions.
The technology business moves at a frantic pace, demands long hours and necessarily involves a great deal of travel and pressure. It rewards the successful with vast wealth, often achieved suddenly and at a young age. Little wonder that tales of excess are common currency, and that the occasional tragedy ensues.