Albert Dunlap, the former chief executive of Sunbeam Corp., reportedly agreed to pay $15 million to settle shareholders suits accusing him and other executives of inflating the company's stock price by lying about sales and earnings prospects.

Dunlap, nicknamed "Chainsaw Al" because of his reputation as a ruthless cost-cutter, was fired in 1998 after the appliance maker's stock sank amid questions about its accounting and lackluster sales. Sunbeam filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2001 as it struggled with $2 billion of debt, most of it taken on by Dunlap to finance acquisitions.

Dunlap's civil trial had been scheduled to begin Monday. Word of the shareholder settlement was reported by the

Associated Press

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The lawsuit was brought on behalf of thousands of shareholders and alleged that Sunbeam used inflated stock prices to complete mergers with Coleman, Signature Brands USA Inc. and First Alert Inc.