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Jewish World Review August 8, 2002 / 30 Menachem-Av, 5762

Phil Perrier

Phil Perrier
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Consumer Reports

Drawing the curtain on a 'forgiven' lifestyle | Years ago, a story leaked claiming our government paid $4000 each for toilet seats on a new military aircraft. It became a metaphor for bloated federal spending. Now we have a new metaphor for corporate greed; a $6000 shower curtain.

The shower curtain is just the capper to a saga of rabid looting that would make Leona Helmsley blush.

According to the Wall Street Journal, former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski spent $135 million of company money to support an almost unbelievably lavish lifestyle.

In addition to the shower curtain, Kozlowski and his wife bought $11 million worth of rare art, antiques and furniture for their $18 million New York apartment; they bought a $19 million home in Boca Raton Florida using a no interest loan from Tyco, which was later "foregiven." Then, to help Kozlowski pay the taxes on the $19 million loan, Tyco gave him another $13 million, as part of what they now call a "special bonus" program. (Insert yanking gesture.)

Tyco, last summer, picked up the tab for Mrs. Kozlowski's $2.1 million 40th birthday bash in Sardinia. Oddly, the company also picked up the tab for Mrs. Kozlowski's 40th birthday party the previous summer. And who does Kozlowski hire to perform at his wife's birthday? Jimmy Buffett!

All of the $135 million was spent without being reported to Tyco stock holders and much of it came from charitable donations.

Kozlowski, 55, resigned in June, the day before being indicted for evading New York state taxes on sales of art works. He now faces a host of charges. Meanwhile, Tyco stock has dropped 80 percent.

Of course, the shower curtain will be what people remember. Most of us glaze over when we hear about huge bonuses and loans, but 6 grand for a shower curtain --- THAT we understand. That tells us these people were living a life of regal gluttony that the average American would never dream of. How many of us would even think, "If I win the lottery I wanna buy a $6000 SHOWER CURTAIN!" ?

What comes after that? $2000 toenail clippers? A mink microwave oven? Gold dental floss?

The curtain in question is described as a "gold and burgundy floral pattern."

Mrs. Kozlowski has been overheard justifying the purchase to friends, "Hey, it's one NICE shower curtain! ... And I got in on SALE!"

In truth, Dennis Kozlowski probably had no idea how much his wife spent on the shower curtain. Like most men, he could have been showering beside a plastic sheet from K Mart for all he knew. No, this has the smell of what divorce lawyers call "establishing lifestyle."

In other words, when Mrs. Kozlowski files for divorce -- and it should be coming any day now -- her lawyer can point to the shower curtain, among other things, and ask a judge (with a straight face) for Dennis Kozlowski to pony up enough cash to keep the Missus in the "lifestyle to which she is accustomed."

Don't get me wrong, Dennis Kozlowski is a greedy pig who should be burned at the stake (preferably on FOX) but it's not like he didn't have help.

The members of Tyco's board knew what was going on. But then it benefited them to keep their boss happy. They just went too far; $13 million to cover the TAXES on a $19 million loan? And who the heck ever heard of a "forgiven" loan? Try this with your student loans sometime! You'll go to an "unforgiven" prison.

No word on who will perform at Mrs. Kozlowski's 3rd annual 40th birthday party, but right now it looks like Roger Clinton.

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JWR contributor Phil Perrier is a Los Angeles-based writer and stand-up comic. Comment by clicking here.


07/29/02: The end of the freak show?
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03/21/02: The Hollywood Curmudgeon's Guide to the Oscars
02/15/02: Another piece of Americana bites the dust
01/18/02: I'M SPARTACUS!
12/31/01: Realistic New Year's resolutions
11/02/01: Return to narcissism with Emmys
10/19/01: White trash exchange program
10/01/01: A few shows that will not be on the fall lineup
09/25/01: What's important
09/20/01: A sleeping giant awakes

© 2002, Phil Perrier