John J. Rigas, whose high-flying success as the founder of Adelphia Cable ended in disgrace and prison over shareholder fraud, died today in Coudersport, Pa. He was 96 and his death was confirmed by a funeral director in the town.
Rigas was at one time an admired businessman and American success story. He turned a $300 investment in a small cable TV system into the nation’s sixth-largest communications empire, building a family business at a time when cable ruled.
At its height, the family-run Adelphia Communications Corporation had 5.5 million customers in more than 30 states. The money flowed so much that the family bought the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League.
That ended in 2004, when Rigas and his son, the Adelphia CFO, were convicted of securities fraud and bank fraud. They were accused of falsifying the company’s earnings and diverting more than $3 billion in company funds for their own use.
John Rigas was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison and Timothy to 20 years. Both sentences were later reduced, but John Rigas was 82 when he entered prison in 2007. In 2016, at age 91, he was granted compassionate release. Timothy Rigas was released from prison in July 2019 after serving 12 years.
Adelphia eventually filed for bankruptcy and was divided up and acquired by Comcast and Time Warner. The Rigas family had to forfeit $1.5 billion in assets.
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