Paul Allen

Charter Communications

In his spare time, billionaire Microsoft Corp. (MSFT ) co-founder Paul G. Allen plays the guitar in a rock band called Grown Men. He might be better off paying more attention to his day job, managing his portfolio--especially his investment in the troubled cable company, Charter Communications (CHTR ).

In the late 1990s, Allen hit on the notion of cable as the crucial link for his "wired world," which would bring the Internet into folks' living rooms. He paid nearly $7 billion to create Charter, now the country's third-largest cable company, with nearly 6.7 million subscribers. These days, his 56% stake would go for about $423 million. Though the company is hobbled by some $18.5 billion in debt (taken on so it could lay miles of superfast fiber-optic wires), a spokesman says Allen "remains confident in the vision of the wired world." Good thing. Because Allen may have to dole out more money if Charter's financial situation deteriorates further.

Or he could take it private. But he'll have to wait until a federal grand jury and the Securities & Exchange Commission finish investigating accounting issues and whether Charter overstated its subscriber count. The company says it is cooperating with the probes and has fired its CFO and COO. It's enough to make a Grown Man cry.

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