Dish CEO to Give Up President Role to Focus on Wireless Plan

  • Changes `indispensable' as Dish works on entry in wireless
  • Ergen remains CEO and chairman, Carlson promoted president

Dish Network Corp. Chief Executive Officer Charlie Ergen is relinquishing his role as president of the satellite-TV provider, freeing the billionaire co-founder from some day-to-day duties as he works on a plan to enter the wireless industry.

Ergen will remain chairman and CEO, a title he retook just nine months ago, while company veteran Erik Carlson will become its president and chief operating officer, the Englewood, Colorado-based company said in a statement. This gives Ergen more time for longer-range strategic decisions, like what to do with the $50 billion supply of airwaves he has yet to put to use after a government ruling this year nudged his goal of building a nationwide wireless carrier further out of reach.

“Charlie is laser focused on maximizing the value of the spectrum,” said Paul Sweeney, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “He is happy to hand off much of the day to day operations of the satellite business to others.”

Ergen, who aspires to compete with companies like Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. with a high-speed wireless network that can deliver advanced services like TV and Internet, is under pressure to find a way to achieve that goal as its pay-TV business starts to shrink. The company is facing an industrywide decline in subscribers as more Americans drop traditional TV packages to watch shows from Netflix and Hulu online.

After U.S. regulators ruled in August he couldn’t buy some airwaves on the cheap in the most recent federal auction, Ergen blamed the government for making it harder for Dish to compete with the phone giants in future auctions. The next one is in March and Dish has said it might participate.

The management changes are “indispensable as we advance our work on the strategic transformation of Dish, including our entry into the wireless industry,” Ergen said in the statement.

Bernie Han, Dish’s current chief operating officer and executive vice president, will become executive vice president of strategic planning, among several internal promotions.

The shares fell 1.9 percent to $59 at the close Friday in New York, putting the stock down 19 percent this year compared with a 2.3 percent drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

This is the second time in five years that Ergen has handed off management duties. The first time was in 2011, when he appointed Joe Clayton as CEO.

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