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HealthSouth And My Southern Exposure

The promos I've been seeing on CNBC today for tonight's episode of "American Greed" took me back.

Time flies, so it's hard for me to believe it was around six years ago that Birmingham, Alabama became kind of my second home for several weeks when the federal case against Richard Scrushy and HealthSouth was unfolding. The Tutwiler Hotel in downtown was my Birmingham address. I'd never been to the historic and resurging city before, so I explored on my downtime. My visit to theBirmingham Civil Rights Institute was memorable and certainly resonates today given recent events.

The culinary scene in Birmingham was small, but surprisingly vibrant and creative. The "Hot and Hot Fish Club" was my favorite. Scrushy would never talk to me, but everyone else in town seemed pretty friendly. The family of a local rabbi even took me in when I was stuck in Birmingham still covering the case over Passover.

One-by-one the U.S. Attorney got a parade of HealthSouth CFOs to turn state's evidence. There were damning tape recordings. To the local and national reporters covering the story, it was looking like an open and shut case against the company founder and disgraced former CEO Scrushy. We were wrong. He was later acquitted.

You can learn about the whole sordid drama tonight on CNBC at 9p and 1a ET.

Long after the trial was over and HealthSouth was on the mend, I went back to Birmingham to interview the new CEO Jay Grinney. It was the first time I got to see the opulent C-suite Scrushy had designed. Gold leaf on the ceiling. A grand staircase leading up to his office. An exclusive dining room and elevator. The expensive accoutrements remained, but Grinney made a point of not working in an ivory tower.

It's been so long since I've done anything on HealthSouth that I had to look up the ticker symbol to write this. When I was covering the story it was HSTH before being delisted. Now it's HLS.

But my symbol of HealthSouth is this great candid shot--not of me, but of Mr. and especially Mrs. Scrushy--which was taken outside the federal courthouse by a photographer at the "Birmingham News."

He gave me an 8x10 print that sits in a frame on my desk at work. It's the closest I could ever get to the guy.

CNBC.com

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com