Bill Schleyer and Ron Cooper have worked together for two decades building, running and fixing various cable systems. The cohorts’ latest assignment: the rehabilitation of Adelphia, which filed its reorganization plan last month. Schleyer and Cooper moved the MSO’s headquarters from Coudersport, Pa., to Denver, enabling them to dip into a larger talent pool. They’ve weeded out some Adelphia executives from the Rigas era, promoted others and brought in new staffers to reinvigorate operations. CableWORLD talked with chairman and CEO Schleyer, who is handling the bulk of the bankruptcy and financial issues, and president and COO Cooper, who’s in charge of the day-to-day operations, about the Rigas trial and issues affecting the industry. CW: How has the Rigas trial affected morale and customer perception of the company? Schleyer: The trial has created a buzz, particularly in Coudersport. But Paul [Jacobson, Adelphia’s VP, communications] has been keeping everyone so informed on the developments and improvements at the company that most people are able to focus on their jobs. The distraction has been minimal. Cooper: We’ve gone to great lengths to convey to our customers, our employees and our local franchising authorities that the Rigases are on trial here, not Adelphia. There is more stress in Coudersport than elsewhere in the company, which is to be expected. CW: Will Adelphia change its name? Schleyer: We’ve had two meetings on this issue, and in both cases, the employees overwhelmingly voted to change the name. We haven’t decided what to do yet, and haven’t settled on any possible names yet. Cooper: We won’t do anything until after the reorganization and the trial. We don’t want the new name tarnished before it’s even out of the gate. CW: Will Adelphia remain independent? Schleyer: Yes, absolutely. We’ll have one of the better balance sheets in the industry after we emerge from bankruptcy. If we received legitimate offers, the board would have to look at them seriously, but we’re preparing the company to stand alone and go forward independently. CW: Would a Democratic administration change the regulatory environment for the cable industry? Schleyer: It is much too early to say how the different parties would affect the telecommunications landscape. I think the regulatory environment has been and will be positive for the industry. CW: Would a combined Comcast/Disney be good for the industry? Schleyer: It would be a very good thing for the industry. Over history, content and distribution have traditionally been separate, and that has created proprietary interests that don’t benefit consumers. If you own both content and distribution, you’re not going to ask yourself what’s best for you. You’ll be asking whether it’s good for the consumer. CW: What’s the biggest challenge the industry will face in the next 18 months? Schleyer: If you look at all the products we’re deploying now, trying to get it all done and done correctly is our biggest gamble. We don’t want to confuse consumers or overwhelm our networks. Cooper: I agree. Our biggest challenge is going to be keeping our operations teams focused. It’s all about keeping our eye on the customer. The prospects for both Adelphia and the industry are bright, but it’s a difficult environment, and we have to be better at we do if we want to stay on top. CW: Which would you rather have in your home, VOD or a DVR? Cooper: My system just got upgraded, and I just got high-speed data, which is keeping me plenty occupied at the moment. I am scheduled to get a DVR and high-definition box installed in my home in the next two weeks. I’ll let you know what I think then. Schleyer: I’d say that DVR has the advantage today, but I think that will change as more programming becomes available. I’ve got VOD but no DVR in my home. The buzz in my neighborhood, especially with the kids, is that people are beginning to use it more and more on a weekly basis. [Both Schleyer and Cooper live in areas Comcast took over when it bought AT&T Broadband in 2002.] CW: What is the best part of your job? Cooper: The most rewarding aspect of this job has been working with the employees. They were disheartened when we came on board. They were working hard, and few were involved with the financial issues plaguing the company. Those problems took most employees by surprise. But they’re committed to getting Adelphia back on its feet. Schleyer: This was a very centralized company, and there were some very talented people whose voices weren’t being heard. In a sense, we liberated the company. CW: The most difficult aspect? Cooper: Adelphia wasn’t very well managed. They were behind on their upgrades and deployments of new products. It impaired our competitive advantage, and that has made it difficult to get back on track. Schleyer: I think the hardest part of my job is dealing with the enormous number of constituents we have to deal with- the SEC, Justice Department, the board, the employees, the stockholders. It’s difficult with a bankruptcy. You just do the best you can.

The Daily


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