PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas is stepping down as head of the company he started following a plummet in the company's stock over questionable accounting practices.
The nation's sixth-largest cable television system operator has been under fire for failing to disclose it had guaranteed at least $1.6 billion in loans to Rigas' family.
The company's stock plummeted this spring after it revealed the off-the-books debt and confirmed that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating its accounting.
Adelphia also said Wednesday it is conducting an investigation of issues raised in the preparation of its annual financial report, which was supposed to have been filed April 1 but still has not been submitted.
The company suspended an ongoing audit by Deloitte & Touche pending the outcome of the internal investigation.
A company spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking further comment.
The 77-year-old Rigas will remain on the Adelphia board as he steps down as chairman, chief executive and president.
He is being replaced as chairman by board member Erland E. Kailbourne, who was also named interim CEO.
``After much thought and prayer about what will best serve the needs of the company and our stakeholders ... I have concluded that Adelphia needs fresh, independent leadership, and that after half a century at the helm the time is right for me to step down,'' Rigas said in a statement.
Rigas, who founded the company in 1952, was named chairman emeritus and will serve an advisory role and represent Adelphia within the cable TV industry.
Coudersport, Pa.-based Adelphia said in late April that it had been notified by Nasdaq that it faced delisting of its stock due to the delayed financial report. A hearing was scheduled with Nasdaq for Thursday.