L. Dennis Kozlowski
• Diversified into financial services by acquiring CIT Group for $10 billion
• Sales increased 25%, to $36 billion, in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30
PHOTO BY JASON GROW/CORBIS SABA
Dennis Kozlowski is known as perhaps the most aggressive dealmaker in Corporate America. But in 2001, the CEO of Tyco International Ltd. (TYC ) stood out for leading his company through a recession that flattened most of its counterparts. Despite the downturn, Tyco's earnings before extraordinary charges soared 38%, to $5.1 billion, for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
Kozlowski, 55, has steered Tyco into such recession-resistant businesses as health-care products and security systems. That helped offset a downturn in Tyco's $13 billion electronics operations. Sales are still falling, but Kozlowski moved fast last year to slash 11,500 jobs and cut annual costs by $350 million.
Kozlowski--who has done $62 billion worth of deals since 1992--bagged his most surprising prey in June: CIT Group, then the nation's largest independent commercial-finance company. Critics scoffed, saying Tyco would get burned venturing into an unfamiliar business just as the economy was souring. But so far, profits are up, thanks to Kozlowski's decision to jettison some $5 billion in underperforming CIT assets and trim $150 million in administrative costs. Kozlowski vows Tyco's earnings will once again grow by more than 20% a year. That would bring him closer to his ultimate goal: inheriting the mantle once worn by Jack Welch.