Mel Karmazin Leaves Sirius XM Radio

58 BIZ Mel Karmazin
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As Liberty Media nears its takeover of the satellite firm, James Meyer, president of sales and operations, becomes interim CEO.

Mel Karmazin has stepped down as CEO of Sirius XM Radio, a position he has held since 2004, and was replaced on an interim basis by James Meyer, who was promoted from president of sales and operations.

Karmazin had been expected to leave Sirius XM for several months because Liberty Media has been seeking control of the company, and it is on the brink of doing so. After Liberty CEO Greg Maffei indicated on a few occasions that a management change could be in the offing and Karmazin insinuated his reign was nearing a close, he put an end to the speculation by declaring in October that he’d step down Feb. 1, 2013.

Liberty invested $530 million in Sirius XM in February 2009, helping it to stave off bankruptcy, and it has been buying millions of shares this year.

Karmazin is a longtime radio executive who co-founded Infinity Broadcasting, was an early advocate for shock-jock Howard Stern and was president and COO of CBS when it was acquired by Viacom in 2000. He served under Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone for four years before resigning in May 2004, and he joined Sirius Satellite six months later. Probably his biggest achievement -- which took 16 months of regulatory wrangling to accomplish -- was merging Sirius with XM Satellite Radio in 2008, thus forming Sirius XM Radio.

Sirius XM has formed a search committee to find a permanent CEO, and Meyer is a viable candidate for the role, the company said Wednesday.

Karmazin has also relinquished his role as director, and Meyer has joined the board.

“We are fortunate to have a very strong executive team in place at Sirius XM, and in Jim we have a highly qualified leader and operator,” said Sirius XM chairman Eddy Hartenstein. “Thanks to Mel Karmazin’s leadership, strategic vision and operating focus, Sirius XM is poised for a continuation of the results and performance investors have come to expect."

News of the management change came ahead of the opening bell on Wall Street, but shares of Sirius XM were unchanged. The stock has risen 55 percent in five months, as Liberty made it clear to investors it was interested in taking control of the company through stock purchases.