Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III checked into the Betty Ford Center earlier this week and will spend a month in an alcohol-rehabilitation program, the Orange County billionaire's attorney said.
Nicholas, 48, is enmeshed in an acrimonious divorce and has been identified as "a potential unindicted co-conspirator" in a federal investigation of illegal backdating of Broadcom stock options.
But attorney Bill Hake said his client's stint in rehab was prompted by the recent death of his stepfather, Robert Warnes Leach.
"The death of a beloved parent can be devastating to anyone," Hake said in a statement released this week. "For Nick it triggered a period of intense self-reflection and recognition that he has been drinking too heavily."
Hake said Nicholas had been "deeply distressed" by a long-running custody dispute with his estranged wife, Stacey, who has accused him of being an unfit father. Voluntary tests Nicholas took during the dispute were negative for drugs, Hake said, "but a recent blood work-up showed a liver panel well out of the normal range."
In a lawsuit seeking back wages, a former assistant to Nicholas accused him of abusing drugs and indulging in prostitutes. Nicholas denied the allegations through his lawyer, who called them an extortion attempt.
Federal authorities are probing Nicholas' role in the manipulation of stock option grants at Broadcom, the Irvine chip maker he co-founded and led as chief executive until 2003.
An internal company review found that he bore "significant responsibility" for the so-called backdating of grants, but did not benefit from them personally.
Nicholas has denied wrongdoing.