Adelphia's 'Bear Bait'; Cox Interested?

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With opposition to Adelphia Communications Corp.'s bankruptcy reorganization plan continuing to grow, speculation that another MSO could step in soon with a bid to buy the No. 5 MSO is growing, as well.

A key date in the process: April 26. That's when the bankruptcy court is scheduled to hear arguments on some bondholders' attempt to terminate the period in which Adelphia management has exclusive rights to file a reorganization plan.

Ending that exclusivity would allow other creditors to file competing reorganization plans and could open the door for outright bids for Adelphia's 5.3 million cable customers.

Several names have already been bandied about as possible "bear-hug" suitors for Adelphia, including Comcast Corp., Time Warner Inc. and Cox Communications Inc.

But Comcast -- the king of unsolicited cable takeover bids -- already has such a play for The Walt Disney Co. on the table, which Disney rejected. So it's seen as unlikely that Comcast would move on Adelphia until that issue is resolved.

Time Warner, parent of the No. 2 U.S. MSO, wants to add cable systems, but it needs to resolve a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into accounting practices at its America Online Inc. Internet unit. That could hinder its ability to get involved in a big deal anytime soon.

Less encumbered is Cox, which would also like to grow in cable.

According to sources in the financial community, Cox is already looking seriously at a bid for Adelphia, though it hasn't made any formal approach.

"Cox is in the running," one source in the financial community said.

Cox spokeswoman Laura Oberhelman said that while the Atlanta MSO is open to doing deals, none are currently in the works.

"We would certainly look at any cable properties that were similar to our systems in things like upgrade status, cluster size and scale," Oberhelman said. "But there are no such properties for sale at this time."

For more on Adelphia’s potential suitors, please see Mike Farrell’s story on page one of Monday’s edition of Multichannel News.