Monday, June 20, 2005

Government PR for Corporate Scandals

“This is a tragedy lacking in heroes,” the judge said.
Quote from the Hollywood blacklist red-scare days? Watergate? Vietnam? Nope—

John Rigas, who turned a $300 investment a half-century ago into cable behemoth Adelphia Communications Corp., was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday for his role in the looting and debt-hiding scandal that pummeled the company into bankruptcy.—MSNBC

Rigas is 80 years old. This amounts to a life sentence.

As the Superman Comics I read as a kid used to say, through a “strange quirk of fate,” there I was at a moderated lecture at the Cable TV Expo Convention in late fall 2001. The moderator was interviewing one of the heavyweights of all time in Cable TV entrepreneurial accomplishment, John Rigas. I remember specifically Rigas answering the question of why Adelphia had acquired the huge debt of $12 billion (no misprint) in order to “expand” etc in the burgeoning cable TV growth throughout the US. He said something to the effect of the cable business being a wonderful opportunity and nothing but shiny prognoses for future growth in the entire cable TV industry.

The friend who invited me to this symposium, owner of a major cable TV business in Pennsylvania, wanted to hear the guru Rigas speak because at the time, shortly after 9/11, Cable TV was in a state of flux: a few major players in the country were gobbling up the rest of the independents in an effort to control the board. The astronomical expense of maintaining the “plant”--cable-ese for the wires and electronics that get the signal from the headquarters to your house or business most efficiently—was making the future of the field look palatable for only the biggest conglomerates, not the family-owned and operated indy’s, of which my friend’s company was one.

So we wanted to hear what the most successful independent cable TV founder had to say about the future of ownership in the cable TV/internet/phone arena. A kindly older gentleman, with a countryish manner about him, Rigas only spoke positively about his experiences in the small town of Coudersport, PA where he got his start with a meager $300 loan, and now headed an empire that could manage a debt of 12 billion dollars.

Looks like we wasted our hour and 20 minutes listening to this now convicted criminal. John Rigas and family are not even the biggest players in the realm of Enron-like corporate stealers. But they are the latest hot “get” by the government trying to make a show to the public that ”things are getting back in order” by weeding out some bad guys in public.

Spare me the headlines—The indigenous nature of corporate greed in these United States makes these show trials nothing more than they are—a drop in the cesspool bucket. Have you ever talked with a CEO about what he thinks about his fellow Americans, politics, or just trivial stuff like their wive’s mindset, or anyone’s minor needs and wants? That’s an education all by itself in racism, rationalization, and justification.

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