Compared to everyone else, the life of a billionaire is simply different. They don’t have to worry about the sort of things that most people worry about–mainly money.
Instead, they’re free to pursue just about anything they want to in life. It’s definitely a wonderful freedom to have but, in some cases, even those billionaires can do things they’d otherwise have no need to do. And just like everyone else, billionaires are expected to obey the law.
During the 1990s, a lot of nerds made a lot of money really quickly, thanks to the explosion of the Internet and personal computers. Companies like eBay, Google, and Amazon turned a few tech savvy people into billionaires in less time than it takes some people to graduate from college.
Starting Something Big
Although it took him a little longer to make it into the billionaires’ club, Henry Nicholas still made it in less than a decade by co-founding the computer chip and telecommunication networking company Broadcom. In a story that sounded like the start of tech giants like Microsoft and Apple, Nicholas started the company in the spare room of his home with Henry Samueli, his doctoral advisor from his time studying electrical engineering at UCLA.
Each of them invested $5,000 of their own money into the business and over the next few years, they became so successful that when the company went public in 1998, Nicholas became a billionaire overnight.
As you might imagine, suddenly coming into that amount of money can change everything about a person’s life. Things were great until a few years later when the dot-com bubble burst. He reportedly lost $8 billion, which lead to him to the twin problems of working way too many hours and partying far too much, causing all sorts of problems with his marriage.
Still a Billionare
In 2003, Nicholas stepped down, saying that he wanted to devote more time toward his family. He still held on to a three percent stake in the company, meaning that he was still worth plenty of money. According to Forbes, his current net worth is estimated to be somewhere around $3.1 billion dollars.
Effectively Endless Money
For a bit of perspective, if you had $1 billion and decided to spend $10,000 of it each day, it would take you around 274 years to blow through all that money. So what do you do when you’re out of a job and have more money than you could reasonably spend in a lifetime?
For Nicholas, he turned toward philanthropy and politics. Nicholas’ sister had been shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983, which inspired him to begin a non-profit organization that supports the families of murder victims and to lobby for laws in several states that increased rights for the victims of such crimes.
Spread it Around
Nicholas also made major contributions to several schools, colleges, Habitat for Humanity and the Episcopal Church. But in addition to his philanthropic efforts, he also found some less savory things to do with his time and money.
In 2008, Nicholas was arrested after the Justice Department unsealed two indictments against him. The first was for the “white collar” crimes you would expect from a very wealthy person: 21 counts of securities fraud where he’d allegedly misrepresented $2.2 billion in employee stock options. While that was unexpected, the second indictment was downright shocking.
Nicholas was accused of four counts of drug trafficking, of soliciting prostitutes for himself and his clients, consuming a wide variety of illegal drugs, and spiking the drinks of unwitting rivals in the tech industry. According to court documents, he’d even built a sprawling lair under his home in Laguna Hills, California, so he could host drug-fueled parties in the company of prostitutes.
“He wanted to live above ground with his wife and three children, with the option to go below ground to [do] cocaine, ecstasy, Viagra, speed, prostitutes, and party [with] friends,” claimed one man who said he’d helped to build the lair.
Beating the Charges
Over the next couple of years, Nicholas would be cleared of all the charges, both for fraud and for the alleged hard-partying lifestyle. But regardless of his legal innocence, it would be a difficult task to repair his reputation and it would ultimately lead to the breakdown of his marriage.
But Nicholas would get into some trouble again in 2016 when an ex-girlfriend accused him of verbal and physical abuse, saying that out of control drug abuse was partly to blame for his terrible behavior. Those charges would be dropped eventually as well.
But it once again seemed that Nicholas was unable to steer clear of scandal when in September of 2018, he was staying at a Las Vegas casino-resort and had locked himself out of his hotel room. He did the natural thing and asked for help from the hotel staff.
But when a member of the security staff helped him unlock the door to his room, they found Ashley Fargo, the ex-wife of one of the heirs to the Wells Fargo fortune, passed out with semi-deflated balloon in her mouth, according to TMZ. Paramedics were called to the room and they were able to revive her.
Security found canisters of nitrous oxide in the room and a further search by police uncovered a case containing heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy, according to Larry Hadfield of the Las Vegas Police Department.
Not for Money
Considering the amount of money Nicholas has, it would seem highly unlikely that he planned on selling the drugs. However, because of the amount of narcotics found, he was hit with drug trafficking charges.
“It sounds like his biggest crime is being an addict,” said Alex Kazarian, an attorney and legal analyst for CBS Los Angeles. “He’s a billionaire. He’s not a person that’s trying to make money off of drugs. He’s a person that’s trying to make friends off of drugs.”
“Unfortunately, the way the laws are written, if you’re giving away drugs or if you’re selling drugs, you’re trafficking,” Kazarian added. Ashley Fargo, the woman found in Nicholas’ room, would face the same charges.
Straight and Narrow
If the pattern of Henry Nicholas’ past brushes with the law holds true, he will be able once again to clear himself of the charges against him with the help of some top quality lawyers. If that’s the case, it would probably be a good idea to stick with the philanthropy and stay away from the partying moving forward.