Exclusive Interview: HealthSouth Founder & CEO Richard Scrushy
I believe that it is always best to treat others as they treat you, rather than judge them based on what other people say. I’ve interviewed Richard Scrushy three times for the book I’m writing about the history of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, and he’s been nothing but kind, honest, and generous with his time. As far as I’m concerned, everything he’s told me has been the 100% truth. Just a few days ago, I was honored to be the first person that Richard did an interview with for his new book entitled It Should Not Happen in America: From Selma to Wall Street―’A Journey of Fire and Faith.’ I enjoyed Richard’s first book, so I look forward to diving into this one. I’m certain that it will be a fascinating read, and I encourage you to pick up a copy. Read on for my exclusive interview with Richard Scrushy.
You have a new book called It Should Not Happen In America. For those that don’t know, what is this book about?
The book, to a certain extent, talks a lot about my family. My grandfather came over as a teenager from Romania to Ellis Island in New York, and I talk about his influence on my life. I also talk about my father’s influence on my life, and I tell deep, personal stories about my family.
My book starts out by talking about the valley that I went through. The subtitle includes the phrase “From Selma to Wall Street.” I grew up in Selma, Alabama, so I talk about that. I was there when Martin Luther King marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and I talk about that. I also talk about things in my life that I went through growing up during that particular period of time, which was a time of civil rights struggles, among other things. I discuss what it was like growing up in a town like that and things that influenced me and led to me running successful companies in my career.
I also talk about building a company and where that idea came from. I do discuss some of the difficulties I faced in building a company, as well as some of the problems I had to deal with when I was being attacked while in the CEO position. I discuss some of that, including its effect on my family.
The title, It Should Not Happen In America: From Selma to Wall Street―’A Journey of Fire and Faith,’ has two meanings. First, it is about my unlikely journey from Selma to New York City, running multiple public companies. Second, it’s about what’s gone wrong in this country: people who have suffered because of injustice, and I give some examples of that in the book. I talk about how a lot of these things aren’t fair, and how a lot of the things that happen in this country shouldn’t happen in this country. Judges, unfortunately, aren’t always fair. They are biased. They are political. Prosecutors are political. There are too many plaintiff attorneys, so people are being ripped apart by lawyers who are suing and suing and suing, and much of it is frivolous. Unfortunately, plaintiff attorneys become judges. And in state courts all across the country, the judges are elected and the plaintiff attorneys put up all the money. So, you have these relationships in America that are biased that ought to be illegal, and they should be criminal. It should not be allowed. A lawyer should not be able to give a judge a million dollars and then go practice law before that judge. You would think that is a conflict of interest. But you’ve got lawyers and judges that are corrupt, in many cases. You’ve got greed, and all of this kind of activity that’s going on. I even include a few examples of people who were killed that shouldn’t have been. Then I talk about the political system and some of the things we’ve experienced there. There’s a lot of bias. There are a lot of things that you’d think wouldn’t happen in America.
The ‘A Journey of Fire and Faith’ part of the book’s subtitle is about the importance of faith in my life, including my deep spiritual background. That’s what this book is about.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I’ve been working on this book for several years. The research took several years. I probably did 10 different versions of this book before sending it to the publisher.
Why did you decide to release this book now?
Because I finished it. (laughs) I finally finished the book. That’s the only reason why it’s coming out now. There’s no other reason for the timing. I wrote this manuscript, printed it out, and it was sitting here on my desk right up until the time I sent it to the publisher.
Have you considered doing an audiobook version where you narrate the book?
Yeah, I think I should do that. I will. I’ll do that; I just haven’t had time.
Did the Trial By Media documentary on Netflix about your HealthSouth legal troubles play a role in writing and releasing this book?
No. That came and went; I don’t think about that. Those people were such a joke; just a bunch of liars. They just made up what they were going to do, and what they wound up doing was different than what they told me and my wife.
I’ve been working on my book for the past several years, and I just finished it within the past six months.
What was your motivation for writing this book?
I wanted to put my side out there. This is the truth. Everything else that people have read, seen, and heard is sensationalized. People hyped things up to make money. This is the real deal here. This is exactly what happened, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Was it hard for you to write about such a difficult time in your life?
Not really. I needed to get it out. First of all, I wanted to document it for my children and my grandchildren, so they would know what happened and not be hearing stories from people down the road. I wanted to get it in writing so my side is out there, and now it is.
Really, I was carrying a heavy load. I had to get it into writing and get it off my chest. I had to get it into hard copy so I can say, “Read this. If you want to know what really happened, read this. Everything else is someone else’s opinion and speculation. This is what happened right here.“
Do you deal with people regularly who treat you in a prejudicial way because of what’s been written and said about you by others?
Sure, I deal with that. Everyone does. You have to. We all watch or read the news and form opinions about people. But you’ve got to forgive people for that.
I spoke at a church three Wednesdays ago. They asked me speak, so I did. Afterward, I walked to my car and I saw a guy running toward me. He followed me to my car, stopped me, and said, “Can I please talk to you?” I said, “Yeah, sure. What is it?” Then he said, “I owe you an apology.” I said, “Why do you owe me an apology? I don’t even know you.” He replied, “I have said so many bad things about you, and I always thought you were somebody different. But after hearing you speak tonight in this church, I was wrong. That’s why I need to ask you to forgive me.” I told him, “You’re forgiven. With all the negative press and stories out there, I can understand why you might think like that. Don’t worry about it.” I shook the guy’s hand and said, “God bless you, and have a good night.”
During your trying times, when you dealt with all of the HealthSouth legal battles, did you have any friends or business colleagues sever ties with you because of what was going on?
Yes, but those are not real friends, are they? I had people that did that, and it kind of hurt me because I had believed in those people. I had helped them along the way in their careers. I supported them. I worked with many of them and promoted them. It made me want to say to them, “Really? You know me better than that. You know my family. You know my children. You know my wife. You know me better than that. You’ve been in my house. You’ve been to church with us. You’ve traveled with us. You know who we are.”
But I have had a lot of dear friends stay with me the entire time, and I’ve had a lot of businesspeople who tell me all the time, “You were mistreated, and it was a bunch of hogwash. I never believed a word of it. I’m honored to know you and have the opportunity to do business with you.”
When you were in prison, a judge allowed people to take your belongings from you. They raided your house and took everything. That must have been a horrible experience for you.
That was a really ugly thing that was done. It was a judge who was a plaintiff lawyer. He did that to me, and he did it for all of his buddies who were plaintiff lawyers and just a bunch of ambulance chasers. That’s what they do. The guy was a horrible judge, and it was very unfair what he did to my family. That’s a tough one. It’s hard to talk about because of what they did. They hurt my children. They hurt my wife. You can do a lot of things to me, but when you hurt my children and my wife that’s a whole different situation. We had to deal with a lot of very dishonest people.
What do you think your legacy is right now, and what do you want your legacy to be in the future?
Well, I was innocent in the HealthSouth case, and I was proven innocent. In the political case, I was innocent too, but I had a crooked, dishonest judge. We had judicial, jury, and prosecutorial misconduct. I was 100% innocent in that.
I built several multi-billion dollar companies, and those are still successful companies. Everything that I’ve built continues to be successful. None of them have failed. So, I hope that my legacy is that I was an entrepreneur who had some good ideas and helped found some companies that wound up being very successful and are still out there operating today.