Commentary > Wastler's Wanderings
Hey boss ... Toga! Toga! Toga!
Kozlowski's bash was typical, if excessive, in the business world, but you got to have an excuse.
October 29, 2003: 6:34 PM EST

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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - I know a party when I see one. That Kozlowski Sardinia thing ... that was a party! So don't tell me it was a business function.

Toga clad models moving about for "atmosphere"? C'mon.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you probably haven't flipped on a business news channel in a while. Here's a recap: Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski is on trial for fraud. Prosecutors say he and his chief financial officer at the time swindled more than $600 million from the company, mostly by getting Tyco to pick up the tab for their personal expenses.

Case in point, prosecutors say, is a birthday party in Sardinia for Kozlowski's wife where Tyco picked up about half of the $2.1 million bill. Kozlowski's lawyers claim business was getting done at the party, so it was fitting that Tyco paid.

Prosecutors showed an edited videotape of the party to the jury in hopes that they would conclude that this was less about business and more about getting wild, crazy and hammered.

Kozlowski party shot.  
Nice business function.

And, indeed, that tape is pure "Bourgeoisie Gone Wild." Liquor was flowing (although jurors didn't get to see it flowing from the ice sculpted private parts of Michelangelo's David) and people were dancing (badly) as Jimmy Buffett played.

And there was a decidedly erotic tone to the whole thing. With male and female models running about dressed as ancient Romans, it's bacchanal, baby.

But amid the sweaty gyrations, vodka soaked breath and cross-eyed leers, business probably got done. Perhaps one executive promised to look into some matter for another. Or some workers who previously worked at arm's length bonded in a way that will make them a more effective team ... like the ones who mooned the camera.

Kozlowski party.  
See? Kozlowski building relationships during party.

In fact, partying and business often go hand in hand. Ever been to an industry convention? Some of them have pretty wild "hospitality suites." Floor shows, Jell-O wrestling, open bars. In fact, I've been to some trucker conventions that make Kozlowski's Sardinia gig look like kindergarten milk and cookies.

And to some degree the companies involved in those events pick up the tab. And on a smaller scale ... goodbye parties, birthdays, showers ... don't most companies pay for some employee get-togethers ... which also can turn out to be pretty raucous (at least some of mine).

So why shouldn't Tyco help out on Kozlowski's tab?

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Satyrs let loose at the birthday bash for ex-Tyco chief Dennis Kozlowski's wife (from the video footage viewed by jurors on the ongoing Tyco case).

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Well, when you are partying on the pretext of business, you need to have a good pretext ... an annual convention, an executive retreat, a strategy meeting, whatever. You need to have something you can point to and say "We all got together and did this thing ... then we got drunk and acted goofy." Most of us, after all, have to get the expense by a no-fun person in accounting.

Kozlowski, being the boss, didn't have that problem. But he's got one now. His pretext? His wife's birthday. That's a Tyco accomplishment?

Nah. It's OK to party with your co-workers and try to pass on part of the tab ... but at least come up with a better contrived purpose than that. Even if you are the boss, you should always ask the question: "Can I get this by the miser in accounting?"

Meanwhile, strategy session, anyone?  Top of page

Allen Wastler is Managing Editor of CNN/Money and a commentator on CNNfn.

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