Editorial: Rigas betrays a town’s trust

Jul 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

John Rigas, shame on you.
Mr. Rigas is the erstwhile chairman and CEO of cable operator Adelphia Communications.
Adelphia has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The cause: Mr. Rigas and his family used Adelphia, a publicly traded company, to guarantee billions of dollars in loans to the family.
The Rigas family’s violation of the public trust is bad enough. The Adelphia scandal is but one of a number of public company debacles that have eroded confidence in the stock market.
But what has particularly drawn our ire is Mr. Rigas’ first public comments since the disclosures that led to Adelphia’s downfall. In a June 30 interview with The Buffalo (N.Y.) News, Mr. Rigas, 77, speaks about having chest pains, bouts of depression and some loss of appetite. He said he believes his humility and sincerity-qualities he learned from his Greek immigrant parents-will see him through this crisis.
The Adelphia debacle, he told the paper, is “a Greek tragedy.”
Besides the creditors and stockholders who have lost a fortune on Adelphia, there are those victims in and around Adelphia’s home base of Coudersport, Pa. Adelphia is the rural town’s largest employer, and the local Rigas family has been treated like royalty. And it is the locals who have been most betrayed by that family.
At first, most locals rallied around their fallen leader. But as more facts about the Rigas family’s financial shenanigans have come out, that support has waned.
Just this past Wednesday a weekly newspaper based in Coudersport, the Potter Leader-Enterprise, carried an open letter to Mr. Rigas, written by John and Josephine Convey of nearby Roulette, Pa. “Let us ask you what you mean by Humanity & Sincerity (sic),” the letter read in part. “How in the world could you have inherited those qualities from your parents? You alone knew what was happening between Adelphia and the Rigas family. You were feathering your own nest and those of your kin. Yes, you had a humble beginning, but didn’t all of us have the same beginning? We went on to successes, but not through greed.”
The Conveys speak-and eloquently so-for a lot of us. What hubris you have, Mr. Rigas. What chutzpah.
Two weeks ago George Petrisek, a columnist in the weekly paper in nearby Port Allegany, also wrote about Mr. Rigas’ betrayal: “As I began this column, Adelphia Communications, the company that had appeared to be bringing a bright future to the area, a future that would allow our brightest young folk to stay here rather than move to a city to have a career, was asking for bankruptcy protection. …
“The filing came not because the company itself could not make the grade, but because somebody most of us trusted, admired, perhaps revered, killed the Golden Goose, sucked the blood out of it.”
As one resident of Coudersport said to us, “This isn’t a Greek tragedy, Mr. Rigas. This is a tragedy caused by Greeks.”