Edward Breen Speaker & Booking Information

Director of DuPont and Comcast
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Edward D. Breen understood that he was taking on one of the toughest jobs in corporate America when he agreed to become chairman and chief executive officer of Tyco International in July 2002. The former CEO had resigned and was under investigation for stealing hundreds of millions from the company. Then, hours before Breen was to announce his new position, CNBC reported that Tyco might file for bankruptcy. The company's stock fell 18% that day.

"I knew I was going to be in the fire," Breen recalled during a recent talk on campus as part of the Wharton Leadership Lecture Series. "But you never know the intensity until you are really there."

Intensity may be an understatement. Tyco was on the list of notorious companies gripped by greed and accounting fraud along with Enron, WorldCom and Global Crossing. Its former CEO, L. Dennis Kozlowski, has since been sentenced to up to 25 years in New York state prison for plundering the company. In addition to a top layer of managers with questionable ethical bearings, Tyco was saddled with debt and struggling to integrate 400 acquisitions made during the previous five years.

Breen dug in. He fired 290 of the company's top 300 executives. Then he turned around and fired the board that had just hired him. He closed Tyco's posh Manhattan offices and moved to West Windsor, N.J. He ordered consolidations throughout the company, paid down debt and, lately, has begun to focus on growth rather than simple survival.

Breen told his audience that the courage to make decisions -- right or wrong -- along with the talent to both cut expenses and increase revenues are the hallmarks of a great chief executive. And most important, he said, managers need to show passion and compassion to lead successfully. "I keep in mind that any problem can be resolved. It might be ugly, but that's the mindset I went into this with. I'm not afraid to make decisions and I'm not afraid to make a few mistakes along the way."

Today he manages a company with $40 billion in revenues and 250,000 employees worldwide. Tyco operates five main businesses: Fire and Security, including the ADT brand, electronics, healthcare, engineered products and services, and plastics and adhesives.

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