The Trials of Henry T. Nicholas III

When it comes to drama, few billionaires rival Henry T. Nicholas III.
When it comes to drama, few billionaires rival Henry T. Nicholas III.
Nicholas Academic Center

In a lawsuit filed last Friday in Orange County Superior Court, the ex-girlfriend of Henry T. Nicholas III is seeking $70 million, alleging the Newport Beach billionaire abused her emotionally and physically and then broke a promise to take care of her financially for life.

It's just the latest chapter in the saga of Henry Thompson "Nick" Nicholas III. We're pre-ordering the court transcripts because who knows what kind of freak show a trial would expose? Consider what has already come out in lawsuits and various government investigations, as we are about to show you. Keep in mind that some suits disappeared and the government's cases against Nicholas were dismissed.

In November 1983, Nicholas' sister Marsy was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend, leading Henry, his mother and his stepfather to create a nonprofit to help families of murder victims.

In 1987, Henry and Stacey Nicholas, a former electrical engineer he'd met while both worked at TRW, married and went on to have three children.

In 1991, Nicholas, a UCLA graduate, and Henry Samueliu, a UCLA engineering professor, each invested $5,000 to form Broadcom, which went on to create computer chips used in the Apple iPhone, the Nintendo Wii, cable television set-top boxes, computer networks and BlueTooth phone sets.

On April 18, 1998, the day the Broadcom ticker BRCM debuted on the Nasdaq exchange, each of the two Henrys was suddenly worth $600 million based on their stock ownership.

Days later, the Nicholases bought a mansion on a Laguna Hills hilltop for $1.7 million.

In February 1999, the net worth of Broadcom CEO Nicholas and Chairman of the Board Samueli hit $10 billion apiece on paper, making them the wealthiest individuals in Orange County.

During the July 1999 Woodstock Concert, Nicholas distributed ecstasy, according to court records.

On Dec. 31, 1999, Nicholas received an invoice for "Party Favors" to cover the cost of 300 hits of ecstasy, court documents allege.

By early 2000, the average Broadcom employee's net worth on paper was $5.81 million due to stock options.

In March 2000, Broadcom's stock was trading at a price-to-earnings ratio of 617-to-1.

In August 2000, the stock hit an all-time high of $182.41.

Also in the summer of 2000, contractors working on a $30 million remodeling of the Nicholases' Laguna Hills mansion created a chamber deep below that the husband hid from the wife. It would later be described in court papers as "a secret and convenient lair in which he could indulge his appetite for illegal drugs and sex with prostitutes." It was accessed through a hidden door in the library (but presumably not by Col. Mustard with a wrench).

Around the same time, a mock up of the lair was built in a nearby warehouse, contractors allege. It had waterfalls, "a decompression room," a five-person shower, a Jacuzzi for six and plasma TVs that rolled down from the ceiling. The décor was imported from India: Stone and bronze statues of the gods Shiva and Ganesh; antique wooden panels of people in the sexual positions described in the Kama Sutra.

For a 2001 Super Bowl party, Nicholas ordered coke, meth and 225 hits of ecstasy, court papers indicate.

By late 2001, Nicholas would "disappear for periods of time and miss important meetings," his personal assistant at Broadcom, Beth Kuhns, said in court papers. When Nicholas bothered to call, "he would speak nonsense," Kuhns said.

For the quarter ending March 31, 2002, Broadcom reported a net loss of $21.9 million on sales that had fallen 23 percent compared with the same period in 2001. As other Broadcom executives and board members urged cuts to save the company money, Nicholas fought to restore growth.

Nicholas spent that same Easter weekend with his family at their Beaver Creek, Colo., getaway, but he devoted more than a full day to a marathon conference call as Broadcom negotiated the $174 million purchase of Mobilink Telecom, a Silicon Valley mobile phone chip design company.

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On April 8, 2002, the Mobilink deal was announced.

Around this time, Stacey found her husband at the warehouse high on drugs and having sex with a prostitute, according to court documents and Nicholas' own admission (that follows).

A few days later, in an 1,800-word email to Stacey, Henry admitted, "It was 3:00 a.m. I was exhausted, depressed, suffering from ecstasy come-down, and at the end of my capacity to rationally think. I did mention that you saw me with another woman in 'bed' and that I had spent a solid week abusing drugs after my Easter 'all nighter' to prepare for a huge acquisition." He expanded on the dread he'd felt at Beaver Creek. "During my call I was experiencing 'panic attacks' and my hands were shaking." It only got worse. "I had left the 'Easter torture session' in Beaver Creek and was immediately subjected to 40 different disasters at once," he writes. "I have never had so many things converge at once, and never after such a physically and emotionally debilitating one as the 26 hour Easter Day Ericsson/Mobilink call. During that week, I got only a few hours of sleep, and sustained myself by alternating huge quantities of caffeine and ephedrine. I also alternated smaller amounts of coke and crystal (methamphetamine)." His mea culpa: "I deserve everything that is happening to me. I just wish I didn't have other people who depend upon me and look to me to be their leader. ... The worst part is seeing the company falling apart because I am not fully functioning. However, I don't care about Broadcom anymore, I just feel like a liar to the people I am recruiting into new positions."

In October 2002, Stacey Nicholas filed for divorce after 15 years of marriage.

Around the same time, Broadcom's once stratospheric stock sank to an all-time low, $9.70 a share.

On Jan. 23, 2003, Nicholas announced he was quitting Broadcom to rebuild his family and reunite with Stacey, who withdrew her divorce petition.

In 2004, thanks to Nicholas' money and star power he recruited, California voter initiative Proposition 66, which would have eliminated much of the state's three-strikes law, was defeated.

In 2006, Stacey Nicholas re-filed for divorce. A child custody dispute followed, with Stacey pointing to her ex's admitted illicit drug use.

Also in 2006, a lawsuit filed by Nicholas' former personal employee, Kenji Kato, alleged Nicholas frequently sent prostitutes to customers' hotel rooms. "Rather than be at work or at home, he was spending more and more time partying with his stable of women," claimed Kato, who added he and Nicholas shared ecstasy, cocaine, nitrous oxide, GHB, Vicodin, Vicoprofen, Valium and black tar heroin.

In November 2007, Nicholas crashed his 1999 Lamborghini Diablo into a light pole on Coast Highway, according to his lawyer, who conceded his client left the scene of the accident while his security guard stayed to take the rap.

In April 2008, Nicholas voluntarily checked himself into Betty Ford for alcohol abuse, completing treatment at Cliffside Malibu.

In June 2008, a federal grand jury indicted Nicholas and other Broadcom executives for stock fraud and options backdating. The government alleged accounting tricks enriched the Broadcom founders, with Nicholas alone cashing out $1 billion in stock.

That same month, Nicholas was indicted on charges of conspiring to distribute illegal drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine. The government's complaint alleged Nicholas turned his warehouse into a drug den. The government presented evidence from a fired Broadcom employee alleging, "Nicholas had a practice of hiring prostitutes to 'greet' visiting customers, other business associates and himself. ... Further, Nicholas repeatedly offered to purchase drugs for employees of [Broadcom], including those who reported to plaintiff. Finally, Nicholas repeatedly offered or told the salesmen of [Broadcom] to offer services of prostitutes to potential customers if they thought it might help close a deal."

In November 2008, California voters amended the state's constitution by passing Marsy's Law, a bill of rights for the victims of crime that Nicholas heavily campaigned for and bankrolled.

In 2009, Nicholas formed Marsy's Law for All, which provides expertise and resources to victims' rights organizations nationwide and is seeking a constitutional amendment for victims.

In August 2009, Stacey Nicholas sued to assume control of her joint trust with Henry, worth $600 million, alleging he misspent $60 million of their fortune, ordered his private investigators—once dressed in gorilla masks—to stalk her and threatened to have her “whacked.”

Also in 2009, Nicholas, who was 50 then, met 34-year-old restaurant manager Melissa Montero through a friend. They became a thing.

In December 2009, federal Judge Cormac J. Carney in Santa Ana threw out the stock fraud and options backdating charges against Nicholas and Samueli.

In January 2010, the drug charges were dismissed.

Also in 2010, according to Montero, she and Nicholas became serious, agreed to have children together and engaged in a lifetime partnership. Montero added Nicholas insisted that she quit her job and promised to support her financially if she devoted her life to him, paying her $25,000 a month.

In March 2015, Forbes ranked Nicholas number 391 on the list of richest Americans, with a net worth of $1.7 billion.

Around October 2015, Montero was forced to leave Nicholas' Newport Coast home for her own safety, and her $25,000 monthly allowance ended, she claims.

On Jan. 8, Montero filed her suit that claims she tried to help Nicholas as he fell into a deep spiral of drug abuse and erratic behavior. She claims he frequently abused "E," coke, meth and painkillers and that he grew ever more abusive. Her attorney says his client was diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress disorder. Her lawsuit claims breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, and domestic violence. 

By Jan. 14, Nicholas and his attorney had not responded nor could they be reached for comment.

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