|Known for||Co-founder of satellite dish provider Dish Network|
|Net worth||US$ 12.5 billion (Sept 2013)|
Viola ErgenWilliam Ergen
Charles William Ergen better known as Charlie Ergen (born March 1, 1953) is the co-founder and current Chairman of the Board, and former President and CEO of Dish Network and EchoStar Communications Corporation. He stepped down as CEO in May 2011. He remains Chairman of the Board of both companies. Ergen owns 52 per cent of Dish and Echostar shares and holds 88 per cent of its total voting power.
Early life and education
Ergen was born into an Episcopalian family in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on March 1, 1953, the fourth of five children born to Viola and William Ergen. His mother was one of the first female accountants in the state of Minnesota and his father was an Austrian immigrant who was working in Sweden as a nuclear physicist who left Europe prior to World War II as part of the continental brain drain. His father coined the phrase "China Syndrome". His parents married in Minnesota in 1944 and then moved to Camden, New Jersey, before settling in Oak Ridge where his father accepted a position at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Ergen received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he was a walk-on basketball player, and an M.B.A. from Wake Forest University. He was a professional blackjack and poker player.
Ergen studied finance at the University of Tennessee, became a CPA, and worked for Frito-Lay before striking out on his own.
In 1980, he founded EchoStar with his wife and friend Jim DeFranco. He started selling satellite dishes door to door in Colorado. Both Ergen's wife and DeFranco still sit on EchoStar's eight-member board.
In 1980, Ergen and Jim DeFranco, professional gamblers, were accused of counting cards at blackjack and expelled from a Nevada casino. They then decided to enter the satellite television business.
Ergen, his future wife Cantey, and De Franco started a new business called EchoSphere Corporation investing $60,000. They purchased two C-Band antennas and targeted rural Colorado. They drove around Denver on a small budget, selling satellite dishes from the back of their truck.
In 1990, Ergen pushed EchoStar into the big leagues by raising $335 million in junk bonds and purchasing orbital slots for satellites. Two years later, EchoStar got a DBS license from the Federal Communications Commission, giving the company its own geostationary orbital slot. In 1993, EchoStar Communications was incorporated. Under Ergen, EchoStar’s net income doubled to $20.4 million, in 1993.
Ergen officially rolled out Digital Sky Highway (DISH) service in the spring of 1996. DISH was competing directly with DirecTV, Primestar and United States Satellite Broadcasting. It initially offered five programming packages, with monthly fee ranging from $19.99 to $59.99. In August 1996, Dish Network had 100,000 subscribers. After the launch of EchoStar II in September 1996, DISH Network had 350,000 extra subscribers by the end of the year.
- EchoStar purchased a 40% stake in Direct Broadcast Satellite Corporation (DBSC) in 1994, and the remaining 60% two years later.
- In 1998, EchoStar reached a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to buy the DBS assets of American Sky Broadcasting and MCI Worldcom-News Corp. venture satellite television assets for $1.25 billion. This would increase EchoStar’s channels from 200 to 500, and give News Corp and MCI 37 per cent interest in EchoStar. However, the deal fell apart at the last minute.
- In 2007, EchoStar acquired Sling Media Inc, a provider of over-the-top video solutions, for $380 million USD.
- In 2011, DISH and EchoStar completed several acquisitions:
- EchoStar bought out Hughes Communications Inc. for an estimated $1.32 billion.
- DISH acquired struggling DBSD North America in a $1 billion deal to enhance its existing wireless spectrum.
- DISH bought bankrupt video rental chain Blockbuster LLC in a deal valued at an estimated $228 million.
- DISH bought TerreStar for $1.38 billion in a bid to add the latter’s mobile wireless spectrum to its portfolio.
Sales and marketing tactics
Ergen initially relied on price undercutting and promotional offers. In 1998, DISH included BBC America in its America’s Top 100 CD package. Ergen is also known for giving away free satellite dishes.
In June 1991, Ergen was named ‘Master Entrepreneur of the Year’ for the Rocky Mountain region by INC Magazine. Two years prior, he had been honoured with a Home Satellite TV Association Star Award. Ergen played a key role in fighting for American consumers’ rights to watch local television channels via satellite, which became a reality after the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act was passed in 1999. He has been an advocate of video competition issues and testified before the Congress, in this regard, on numerous occasions. He was recognized with a Rocky Mountain News’ Business Person of the Year Award in 1996, and honoured a second time in 2001.
Ergen also won the Frost & Sullivan 2001 CEO of the Year of the Satellite Industry. In 2000 he was named ‘Space Industry Business Man of the Year.’ Ergen was named one of the ‘World’s Best CEOs’ by Barron’s magazine in 2007. He was also mentioned in Forbes Magazine ‘Top Ten CEOs’ list. Ergen has also been the co-founder of the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association.
CNN described Ergen as having the “classic startup mindset”. He is known to be an aggressive and fierce entrepreneur with a country-boy image that belies his competitive nature. Ergen highly thinks that sports are “a great preparation for being a billion-dollar company competing against hundred-billion-dollar companies. You learned to step on their foot so they couldn't jump." Ergen is also known to take employees and interns on hiking trips every year.
Innovation and Disruption
Under Ergen, DISH was the first satellite provider to offer two-way high-speed internet access and the first to introduce a Digital video recorder in a set-top box. He was also instrumental in making satellite receivers available for under $200. In 2012, the Big Four Broadcasters, NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox filed a suit against Dish Network after it launched AutoHop, a technology that records broadcasting programming and plays it back without commercials. DISH filed a suit seeking a declaratory judgment asserting the legality of the judgment. Preliminary injunction by Fox to block the service was denied. Ergen has stated that DISH’s present focus is on acquiring a significant share of the spectrum for cellular wireless services. Dish is also looking for a partner to build a wireless network, with Google and AT&T speculated to be potential partners.
He is married to Cantey ("Candy") McAdam. They have five children. They live in Littleton, Colorado. Ergen is an avid mountain climber who has scaled Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Everest base camp in Nepal. He is a member of the Colorado Mountain Club and has climbed all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. Besides mountain climbing, his interests include poker and pickup basketball.
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- "Cutthroat: High Stakes & Killer Moves on the Electronic Frontier". http://books.google.ch/.
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- Dann Shea, "Charles Ergen: Meet America's Richest Media Mogul You've Never Heard Of", on The Huffington Post 09-18-08 
- "The Charlie Ergen Show Echostar's founder is one tough operator who will soon take control of the satellite TV industry--if Washington lets him". http://money.cnn.com/. 2 September 2002.
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- "Chairman and chief executive officer, EchoStar Communications Corporation". http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/.
- "EchoStar to Acquire Hughes for About $1.32 Billion". http://www.bloomberg.com/. 14 February 2011.
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- "EchoStar announces completion of merger with DBSC". http://www.thefreelibrary.com/.
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- "Sling Media to be Acquired by EchoStar for $380 Million". http://gizmodo.com/. 25 September 2007.
- "Dish Network to Buy Satellite Firm for $1 Billion". http://online.wsj.com/. 2 February 2011.
- "Dish Network Acquires Blockbuster For $228 Million In Cash". http://www.huffingtonpost.com/. 6 April 2011.
- "Dish’s $1.38 Billion TerreStar Purchase Approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge". http://www.bloomberg.com/. 7 July 2011.
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- "Silicon Flatirons: Charlie Ergen, Chairman, DISH Network". http://www.siliconflatirons.com/. 17 April 2012.
- "Federal Court Won't Block Dish's ‘AutoHop’". http://www.multichannel.com/.
- "Dish's AutoHop scores another legal win". http://www.latimes.com/.
- "Charlie Ergen, WFU commencement". http://commencement.wfu.edu/. 2014.