Charlie Ergen Steps Down as President, CEO of Dish Network

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NEW YORK - Satellite TV giant Dish Network said Monday that former Sirius Satellite Radio boss Joseph Clayton has been named president and CEO, effective June 20, with Dish founder Charlie Ergen focusing on the chairman role.

It wasn't immediately clear why Ergen, 58, decided to focus on the role of chairman to leave the day-to-day responsibilities of the president and CEO roles to someone else. He had previously left the role of president to Carl Vogel, a former head of cable operator Charter Communications who remains Dish's vice chairman, from Sept. 2006 until Feb. 2008. But Ergen had never given up the CEO role at Dish before.

Wall Street analysts in first reactions suggested Ergen likely wants to focus on bigger-picture issues and the strategic vision for Dish after the recent acquisition of video rental firm Blockbuster, a patent litigation settlement with TiVo and the acquisition of a broadband provider that has had industry observers guessing about Ergen's longer-term strategy. Ergen in late 2009 also left the president and CEO roles at his other firm, EchoStar, which provides pay TV equipment and technology services, to someone else - Michael Dugan.

"We do not view this as a sign that Charlie is "giving up" on the satellite business," said Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker. "To us, it means that Dish is in good enough shape for Charlie to feel comfortable handing over the reins to someone else." Ergen had in previous earnings conference calls raised some doubts about the future of pay TV companies amid competition from streaming video firms such as Netflix.

Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan also said Monday that Ergen likely wanted to step away from the time-intensive day-to-day operations role of the CEO "to focus strategically."

Dish's stock rose Monday in a sign that investors were comfortable with the move. As of 11:30am ET, Dish shares were up 2 percent at $29.40.

Clayton, who also is a former president of Global Crossing North America, former president and CEO of Frontier Corp. and also worked at RCA and General Electric, will also join the company's board. The 61-year-old has been a board member EchoStar since 2008.

"We believe that Charlie can now free up some of his day-to-day to focus on his longer-term strategic vision for both companies - Dish and EchoStar," Ryvicker said.

"Joe is a 38-year veteran of the consumer electronics, telecommunications and satellite communications industries and I am pleased to have him lead Dish Network as president and CEO," said Ergen. "Joe brings an enormous amount of executive-level experience in the satellite and consumer electronics industries, including positions at RCA, General Electric and Thomson, and we look forward to his leadership as we continue to deliver video entertainment into the future."

"I am very excited to take on this new challenge," said Clayton. "My working relationship with Charlie spans nearly 20 years, and I look forward to building on Dish Network's legacy of innovation and value in TV entertainment."

Clayton previously served as chairman of Sirius Satellite Radio from Nov. 2004 through July 2008 and served as CEO of Sirius from late 2001 through Nov. 2004.


Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai
 

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