By Greg Farrell
June 28, 2005
King Richard reigns once again.
A federal jury in Birmingham, Ala., stunned observers Tuesday when it acquitted Richard Scrushy, the former HealthSouth CEO, of all criminal charges stemming from a $2.7 billion accounting fraud at the company he founded. And so the executive whose imperial lifestyle and dictatorial workplace demeanor once earned him the nickname King Richard has been spared the life prison sentence that has threatened him since his ouster from HealthSouth and subsequent indictment two years ago.
“The truth has come to the surface,” Scrushy said in an interview from his home Tuesday evening. Sounding exhausted, he said it was too early to talk about his plans for the future. For the next few weeks, he simply wants to spend time with his family. “We need to live without this burden on us.”
Scrushy also expressed some bitterness at what he said the government had put him through, saying that he had spent $25 million in legal fees. He also fired a shot at the current executive team at HealthSouth, which issued a statement Tuesday saying Scrushy would not be welcome back.
“There need to be some questions asked about HealthSouth,” he said. “What about the $300 million they’ve spent on trips in Learjets to Palm Beach and other things after I left?”
Not only is Scrushy a free man, but he has pulled off a victory where other corporate honchos – Bernie Ebbers, Martha Stewart, Dennis Kozlowski, John Rigas and Frank Quattrone – failed.