Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Limited

The Times (London)

June 21, 2005, Tuesday

JOHN RIGAS, the 80-year-old former chief executive of Adelphia Communications, was last night sentenced to 15 years in jail for looting $2 billion from the cable company he founded almost half a century ago.

New York Judge Leonard Sand rejected a plea for leniency due to age and infirmity as he handed down a sentence that could condemn the cable-TV group's founder to spend the rest of his life behind bars. Mr. Rigas, who plans to appeal, suffers from bladder cancer and in 1999 underwent triple heart bypass surgery.

Timothy Rigas, the former finance director and Mr. Rigas's son, was later sentenced to 20 years in jail, after he was found guilty of bank fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy.

His brother Michael was acquitted of some charges, but faces a retrial in October on 15 counts of securities fraud.

Legal analysts welcomed the sentences. "Looting a public company is a serious crime and I think the judge wanted to send a message to corporate America that these crimes will be dealt with in a serious way," said Jake Zamansky, a Wall Street lawyer.

Lawyers representing Dennis Kozlowski, the former Tyco chief executive, and Mark Swartz, his former finance director, closely watched the sentencing hearing since both men were found guilty on Friday of committing similar crimes.

Adelphia is currently trading under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection laws although Time Warner and Comcast, two rival cable companies, agreed in April to buy most of its assets for $17.6 billion.

During the Adelphia case, which ended last July, prosecutors said that the Rigases used the company as their "private ATM" from which they drew $50 million in cash advances, $1.6 billion in shares and $252 million to repay margin loans. John Rigas built Adelphia up from the local TV company he founded in 1956.