John Rigas, former CEO of Adelphia Communications
The story of John Rigas, former CEO of Adelphia Communications, reflects that classic American ideal that if you work hard you can get anywhere, but if you're greedy you'll ultimately fall hard.
Like many cable industry titans, Rigas came from humble beginnings. As the son of Greek immigrants who came to the U.S. to seek a better life by settling in rural Wellsville, N.Y., Rigas showed early ambition at the age of nine when he started busing tables at his parent's restaurant.
Following stints in the Army and as a movie theater owner, Rigas and a group of partners bought their first cable system--Coudersport, Pa.'s local cable company.
Through a series of various acquisitions of other cable operators, Rigas' vision helped make Adelphia the largest cable operator outside of Philadelphia, serving Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and South Florida and building a series of systems reaching over 30 states and over 5.6 million customers. Taking advantage of the DOCSIS cable standard, Adelphia also built a suite of voice offerings, including long-distance service and broadband data services.
But all of his dreams of being a cable champion came to an end in 2002 when he was indicted on charges of bank fraud, wire fraud, and securities fraud. His two sons, Timothy and Michael, in addition to James Brown and Michael Mulcahey were also cited for their participation in the company's downfall.
John Rigas was formally convicted of the charges in the summer of 2004 and on June 27, 2005 was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, which was later reduced to 12 years. He and Timothy Rigas began serving their respective 12- and 17-year sentences at the Federal Correctional Complex, Butner, N.C.
These company officers were accused of concealing $2.3 billion in liabilities from corporate investors and using the company's funds for their own personal use.
When it was revealed that John, Michael and Timothy Rigas had taken $3.1 billion in unrecorded loans, Adelphia filed for bankruptcy.
There have been a number of attempts to free the Rigas--all without success.
Following a failed application to get presidential pardon under President Bush, who never made a decision before leaving office, the Rigas defense team failed to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn the prison sentences of both John and Timothy Rigas.