The Rise & Fall of Broadcom Co-Founder Henry T. Nicholas III

Through the 1990s I watched Henry Nicholas turn Broadcom from a tiny start-up that got going making cable modem chips into a fearsome communications chip giant that has caused nightmare to most of its rivals including Intel Corp. The company 48-year-old Nicholas co-founded with Henry Samueli is doing spectacularly, having survived the turn of the century downturn by placing the right bets on market of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, Nicholas isn’t doing so well and today turned himself in to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a variety of charges including spiking drinks of other executives with Ecstasy. (The details of the 21-count indictment of fraud, conspiracy and drug charges below the fold.) There is a whole slew of drug-related charges against the man who apparently led a colorful life in Southern California. The biggest one is that he was involved in fraudulently backdating stock options.What a comedown for a man who was the 258 richest American as recently as 2006. He had resigned from Broadcom in 2003 to attend to family matters. His wife filed for divorce in January 2003

I remember reading a profile of Nicholas back in 2000, which made me wonder if there was something seriously wrong with this guy. His assistant had to schedule sleep time for the man, who saw broadband was the single biggest tech trend of our life. “This is the single-largest revolution since the invention of the offset printing press,” he told Forbes. Rich Karlgaard of Forbes wrote about Nicholas:

He likes to call company meetings at 11 p.m., and you’d better be monitoring your Blackberry when the call comes. For sport, Nicholas cranks up his Lamborghini to 150mph along the roads near his Orange County, Calif. office. Nick’s only weakness is that he could drive himself to burnout.

There is a lot of information to digest about his legal problems. I am embedding the complaints against him in the document in case you want to check them out.

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