updated 4/8/2005 7:40:36 AM ET 2005-04-08T11:40:36

Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp. have reached a tentative agreement to buy Adelphia Communications Corp. for nearly $18 billion, according to newspaper reports.

The two media companies agreed in principle to buy bankrupt Adelphia for between $12 billion and $13.5 billion cash in addition to between $4.5 billion and $5.6 billion in stock in a company that would be created out of Adelphia and Time Warner’s cable unit, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported in Friday’s editions.

Cablevision Systems Corp. also has expressed interest in acquiring Adelphia, which has been in bankruptcy since 2002. Bethpage, N.Y.-based Cablevision, which has about 3 million subscribers in the New York metro area, had reportedly offered $16.5 billion in cash.

An executive close to Adelphia told the Times the Time Warner/Comcast bid was “far and away the best deal actually on the table.”

Adelphia spokesman Paul Jacobson declined to comment to The Associated Press, as did Time Warner spokeswoman Mia Carbonell. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and a company spokesman did not return phone calls late Thursday.

The companies met with a bankruptcy court judge Wednesday to discuss procedures for completing a purchase and a final deal could be days away, the newspapers reported.

Adelphia’s board of directors, a committee representing unsecured creditors and the bankruptcy judge must approve the deal. Creditors have said they would like to obtain at least $17.5 billion from selling Adelphia’s assets.

As part of the deal, Philadelphia-based Comcast will contribute $2 billion and swap its 21 percent stake in Time Warner in exchange for 2 million of Adelphia’s 5.3 million subscribers. The deal also would allow Time Warner to take its cable unit public.

Adelphia, the nation’s fifth-largest cable television provider, filed for bankruptcy after founder John W. Rigas and others were accused of looting the company and cheating investors out of billions of dollars. Rigas and his son Timothy were convicted of conspiracy, bank fraud and securities fraud.

The company, which moved to the Denver suburb of Greenwood Village from Coudersport, Pa., closed bidding on its assets in late January.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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