In our article titled “Charlie Ergen 101: Who is the Successful Billionaire Businessman?”, we will delve into everything you need to know in detail about Charlie Ergen, the accomplished billionaire businessman who piques the curiosity of our readers at Zatrun.com.
Who is Charlie Ergen?
Charlie Ergen is an American billionaire businessman and co-founder and chairman of Dish Network and EchoStar. He relinquished his CEO role to Joseph Clayton in May 2011, but returned to the position in March 2015 after Clayton’s retirement, holding it until December 2017. He then promoted Erik Carlson to CEO to focus on developing the company’s rising wireless business but remains the company’s chairman. Ergen owns 48% of Dish and 46% of EchoStar, with 78% and 72% of total voting power, respectively.
Reuters reported that this move was made to relieve Ergen of daily responsibilities in managing DISH and provide him with more time to develop the company’s rising wireless business.
After earning his MBA degree from Wake Forest in 1976, Ergen started working as a financial analyst for Frito-Lay. He “retired” in 1978 with hopes of starting his own business. He then made a living as a professional gambler, playing poker and blackjack. Ergen was named Businessperson of the Year by the Rocky Mountain News in 1996 and was honored for the second time in 2001. Ergen co-founded the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association and was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2012.
EchoStar: In 1980, Charlie Ergen, his future wife Candy, and Jim DeFranco started a new venture called EchoSphere Corporation and invested $60,000 to purchase two C-Band antennas. Targeting rural areas in Colorado, the company tried to sell satellite dishes out of the back of their pickup trucks while on a small budget in the Denver metro area.
In 1990, Charlie Ergen achieved success by raising EchoStar’s profile, issuing $335 million in junk bonds, and purchasing orbital slots for the satellite. Two years later, EchoStar obtained a DBS license from the Federal Communications Commission and provided the company with its own geostationary orbital slot. In 1993, EchoStar Communications was founded. Under Ergen’s leadership, EchoStar’s net income doubled to $20.4 million in 1993.
Dish: Under Charlie Ergen’s leadership, Dish became the first satellite television provider in the US to offer two-way high-speed internet access by investing in and selling as a vendor in StarBand Communications’ geostationary Ku-band satellite internet access service, and was the first company to introduce a digital video recorder in a set-top box. Dish was also effective in offering satellite receivers for less than $200. In 2012, the Big Four broadcasters, NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox, sued Dish after it released a technology called AutoHop, which records and replays programs without ads.
Dish filed a lawsuit claiming legality that required a statement of determination. Fox’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the service was denied. Ergen stated that Dish’s current focus was on obtaining a significant spectrum share for cellular wireless services. Dish is seeking a partner to build a wireless network, and there is speculation that Google and AT&T could be potential partners. Under Ergen’s leadership, EchoStar and Dish Network acquired many companies after an $8 million agreement for 22 channel assignments from DBSC.
Various legal proceedings involving Charlie Ergen include:
Harbinger Capital Partners, a hedge fund managed by Philip Falcone, filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York in 2013 and 2014 against Dish Network and Charles Ergen personally on charges of bribery during the bankruptcy of LightSquared Inc. In 2015, the federal court dismissed the case.
In September 2013, the Iron Workers Mid-South Pension Fund filed a lawsuit against Ergen in federal court in Colorado. Ergen had purchased a large amount of debt at significant discounts when LightSquared was in bankruptcy. Ergen then made a $2 billion bid to acquire LightSquared’s assets, which increased the offer that Dish had to make to obtain wireless spectrum rights. The lawsuit claimed Ergen had breached his fiduciary duty to Dish shareholders. Dish and Ergen won the case.
In 2005, a discrimination lawsuit was filed in federal court in Denver alleging that EchoStar had engaged in “hostile behavior” toward an employee who had given birth in 2001. The case was settled in August 2005 for an undisclosed amount.
Charlie Ergen was born on March 1, 1953, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to an Episcopal family of Viola (nee Siebenthal) and William Krasny Ergen. He was the fourth of their five children. His mother was one of the first female accountants in Minnesota, and his father, a nuclear physicist who had emigrated from Austria before World War II, was working in Sweden. Ergen’s father coined the term “China Syndrome.” After their families were married in 1944 in Minnesota, they moved to Camden, New Jersey, and later settled in Oak Ridge to accept a position at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Ergen graduated from the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) with a Bachelor of Arts degree and was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He also received an M.B.A. degree from Wake Forest University. He was also known as a blackjack and poker player. Ergen is also known for his frugality. His office is furnished with secondhand chairs, and he doesn’t fly first class. Ergen used to sign all of his company’s checks, but now he only signs checks for $100,000 or more. Ergen’s supporters describe his negotiating style as patient and cautious. He is married to Cantey (“Candy”) McAdam, and they have five children. They reside in The Village at Castle Pines, Colorado.