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PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Adelphia Communications, which fired its accounting firm earlier this week amid continuing controversy over off-the books debt, said Friday that it had hired PricewaterhouseCoopers as its new independent accountant.

The news comes as Adelphia has been exploring selling assets in order to pay debts. A grace period on $44.7 million worth of debt payments missed in mid-May expires Saturday.

PricewaterhouseCoopers ``will provide Adelphia with a fresh and independent perspective on the company's financial situation,'' Adelphia chairman and interim chief executive Erland E. Kailbourne said in a statement.

``Bringing on new auditors with such unassailable credentials is clearly in the best interest of all Adelphia stakeholders as we work to provide a full, prompt and candid disclosure of all material financial information affecting the company,'' he said.

Adelphia, the nation's sixth biggest cable television system owner, suspended work by its previous independent accountant, Deloitte & Touche, on May 14 as it tried to sort out off-the-books debt estimated at more than $3 billion. Adelphia fired the firm Sunday after learning that past audits had failed to detect the questionable business arrangements between the company and the family of its founder, John J. Rigas.

PricewaterhouseCoopers' immediate task will be to help prepare the company's annual financial report for 2001, which is now many weeks late, Adelphia said. Adelphia was delisted from the Nasdaq stock exchange for failing to file the report on time.

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