Henry Nicholas – The Prince of the O.C.
We first encountered Broadcom, a maker of broadband chips, about 8 years ago. At the time, the company had very quietly established itself as a leading supplier of chips to cable set-top box manufacturers. Founded in 1991, Broadcom was diminutive, privately-held, and located in Irvine, an unremarkable city in the heart of California’s Orange County.
But how things eventually changed for the company and its musclebound and wildly energetic CEO, Henry Nicholas. He and co-founder Henry Samueli were catapulted into the rarefied heights of extreme of tech wealth. The company became a stock market darling. The hallways were littered with millionaires.
No Pain. No Gain
We went down to Irvine in 1999 to visit Henry Nicholas for a memorable afternoon. He was all showmanship, but he had the goods to back it up. Having just suffered a rib injury at a skiing/investment banking confab, he subsisted on a diet of protein bars and painkillers. “Nick,” as his devotees called him, urged us to join him for an iron-pumping session at the gym. We could hardly say “no.” He also took us for a spin in his new Ferrari (Editor’s note: to my knowledge, I was the first reporter to ever ride in one of Nick’s many sports cars – because I suggested it to his PR man, Bill Blanning. We’ve since noticed that countless profiles of the former Broadcom CEO culminate in an adrenaline-jolting ride). “Faster! Go faster,” he yelled over the sweet growl of the engine.
Back in the office, we recall Nick making appointments with teams of hapless engineers for 10PM that night. Didn’t these people have lives? Didn’t Henry Nicholas have a life? As it turned out, he really didn’t. In early 2003, he abruptly resigned from Broadcom citing marital difficulties and an eroded family life.
Nick has been pretty quiet since his departure from Broadcom, but we hear he’s using his $2 billion fortune to improve education and contribute to other philanthropic causes. His hometown rag, The O.C. Weekly, sat down with Nick this summer for an update. It would appear that his fortune, family, and physique have not suffered terribly.
In any event, we remember Nick fondly and suspect he’ll move back into the spotlight at some point. He was eccentric, overbearing, cocksure, and bordered on the self-indulgent. But he also possessed a refreshing level of candor that is absent in most CEOs. He was best-suited to building Broadcom, but not ultimately to running it.
Read: Broadcom Without Nicholas [Forbes.com]
Read: Henry Nicholas, Superhero [O.C. Weekly]