The agony and the ecstasy of Henry Nicholas

The indictment against Broadcom's co-founder and former CEO isn't the only weird chronicle of life in techdom--but it's weird enough.

You can't make this kind of stuff up. You just can't. The newly unsealed grand jury indictment against Henry Nicholas III paints Broadcom's co-founder as an alleged drug-addled weirdo hell bent on feeding a covert addiction to ecstasy and cocaine.

Henry Nicholas III in happier days.

Along with the usual litany of death threats and illegal conduct with bribes I've come to expect from anybody with a Roman numeral after their name, the best part of today's indictment claims this goof slipped ecstasy into the drinks of unsuspecting tech execs. (What great fodder for a future summer movie treatment: Cheech & Chong meet the technology industry.)

Remember, this is the same guy who famously imposed a spit-and-polish dress code and woe to the unlucky employee who run afoul of his famous temper. As an aside, let's not forget that last year a contractor sued Nicholas for $150,000 in back wages, claiming he had a secret underground hideaway at Nicholas' Laguna Hills estate used as a "personal brothel" and for drug use.

Nicholas isn't the only former senior technology exec caught up in career-ending scandal. Of course, there's the garden variety pretexting or stock option finagling. Then there's the truly bizarre stuff that pops up on the radar from time to time.

Remember Jeffrey Papows? He used to be president of Lotus before the press debunked his claims to have shucked off his lowly orphan beginnings to become a Marine aviator with a Ph.D. from Pepperdine University, as well as a black belt in tae kwon do. If that doesn't say "don't mess with me, I'm bad-ass," then nothing does.

Only one problem: it was all a fig newton of Papows' considerable imagination. Turns out that he was an air-traffic controller while the degree came from an unaccredited correspondence school. And he's not the second coming of Chuck Norris, either. No tae kwon do black belt. Ditto for the orphan reference; his parents lived close to his home in Massachusetts. But no harm, no foul. He just liked to relate tall tales. (These days, Papows is CEO of Maptuit.)

Then there was the 1999 arrest and subsequent conviction of former Disney Internet exec Patrick Naughton, who got nailed for crossing state lines with the intent to have sex with an undercover police officer that he thought was a 13-year-old girl.

But there's still nothing like the litany of allegations against Nicholas. Among the charges, consider these eye poppers:

•  In or around 2001, defendant Nicholas distributed and used controlled substances during a flight on a private plane between Orange County, Calif., and Las Vegas, causing marijuana smoke and fumes to enter the cockpit and requiring the pilot flying the plane to put on an oxygen mask." (That's a lot of cannabis. A lot of cannabis.)

•  Defendant Nicholas spiked the drinks of others with MDMA (ecstasy) without their knowledge, including, without limitation, the drinks of technology executives and representatives who worked for Broadcom's customers. (Party on, Garth!)

•  Defendant Nicholas hired prostitutes and escorts for himself and customers, representatives, and associates of Broadcom and other businesses entities with which he was affiliated and supplied such prostitutes and escorts with controlled substances. (I get invited to the wrong parties.)

•  Defendant Nicholas used threats of physical violence and death and payments of money to attempt to conceal his unlawful conduct. (Yikes!)

Meanwhile, Nicholas and three former Broadcom confederates face separate charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to the backdating of stock options.

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Tech Culture
About the author

Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.

 

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