Charlie Ergen

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Charlie Ergen
Charles William Ergen

(1953-03-01) March 1, 1953 (age 68)
Alma materUniversity of Tennessee (BA)
Wake Forest University (MBA)
Known forCo-founder, Dish Network
TitleChairman of Dish Network and EchoStar Corporation[1]
Spouse(s)Candy Ergen

Charles William Ergen (born March 1, 1953) is an American billionaire businessman. He is co-founder and chairman of Dish Network and EchoStar. He stepped down as CEO of Dish in May 2011 in favor of Joseph Clayton. Ergen resumed as CEO upon Clayton's March 2015 retirement and was CEO until December 2017, when he promoted president and COO Erik Carlson to CEO,[1] but remains as chairman.[3] Reuters reported that the move was effected to remove the day-to-day responsibilities of running DISH and provide more time for Ergen to build out the company’s emerging wireless business.[3] Ergen owns 48 percent of Dish[4]: 6  and 46 percent of Echostar shares.[4]: 8  He holds 78 percent of Dish's[4]: 6  and 72 percent of EchoStar's[4]: 8  total voting power.

Early career[]

After graduating with an M.B.A. from Wake Forest in 1976, Ergen worked as a financial analyst for Frito-Lay. He "retired" in 1978 in hopes of working for himself.[5][6] Afterward, he was a professional gambler, playing poker and blackjack.[5][7]


In 1980 Ergen, his future wife Candy, and Jim DeFranco started a new business called EchoSphere Corporation, investing $60,000[8] to purchase two C-Band antennas, targeting rural Colorado. They drove around the Denver metro area on a small budget, selling satellite dishes from the back of their truck.[9]

In 1990 Ergen elevated EchoStar's profile 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.[9]


Under Ergen, Dish was the first satellite television 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 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.[10][11][12]

Under Ergen, EchoStar and Dish Network acquired multiple companies, after an $8 million deal for 22 channel assignments of DBSC.[13][14]


Various lawsuits in which Ergen has been involved include:

  • In 2013 and 2014, Harbinger Capital Partners, a hedge fund managed by Philip Falcone, sued Dish Network and Charles Ergen personally in federal court in New York City, alleging racketeering and claiming that Dish Network had illegally tried to take away the hedge fund's control over LightSquared Inc. during its bankruptcy. In 2015, the federal court dismissed the suit.[15][16]
  • The Iron Workers Mid-South Pension Fund filed suit against Ergen in federal court in Colorado in September 2013. Ergen bought large amounts of LightSquared's debt at deep discounts while it was in bankruptcy. Ergen then made a personal bid of $2 billion to acquire LightSquared's assets. This increased the price that Dish had to bid in order to acquire LightSquared's rights to wireless spectrum. Indeed, Ergen ordered Dish to bid $2.2 billion on these assets. The suit claims this was a breach of Ergen's fiduciary duties to Dish shareholders.[17] Dish and Ergen prevailed in the litigation.
  • In 2005, a discrimination lawsuit was filed against EchoStar in federal court in Denver by an employee who said that EchoStar had engaged in "hostile conduct" against her after she had a baby in 2001.[18] The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount in August 2005.[19]

Personal life[]

Ergen was born into an Episcopalian family[20] in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on March 1, 1953,[21] the fourth of five children born to Viola (née Siebenthal) and William Krasny Ergen.[22][23] His mother was one of the first female accountants in the state of Minnesota.[20] His father was an Austrian immigrant who was working in Sweden as a nuclear physicist, and left Europe prior to World War II.[22] His father coined the phrase "China Syndrome".[22]: 83  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.[20] Ergen received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.[24] and an M.B.A. from Wake Forest University.[25] He was a professional blackjack and poker player.[24][26]

Ergen is well known for his frugality. His office is furnished with second-hand couches and he does not fly first class.[27] Ergen used to sign all the checks his company issued but currently signs only checks for $100,000 or more.[24] Ergen's supporters call his negotiating style patient and prudent.[28]

He is married to Cantey ("Candy") McAdam. They have five children.[2] They live in The Village at Castle Pines, Colorado.[21] 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.[21][29]


Ergen was recognized with a Rocky Mountain News' Business Person of the Year Award in 1996, and honoured a second time in 2001.[30][31]

Ergen co-founded the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association.[30][31] In 2012, Ergen was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame.[32]


  1. ^ a b "Dish co-founder Ergen steps down from CEO role to focus on wireless". Reuters. 5 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b "The World's Billionaires 2018". Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Dish co-founder Ergen steps down from CEO role to focus on wireless". Reuters. December 5, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d "Schedule 14A". SEC. 20 March 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b Keating, Stephen (1999). Cutthroat: High Stakes & Killer Moves on the Electronic Frontier. Boulder, Colorado: Johnson Books. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9781555662486.
  6. ^ Gardner, Eriq (2 April 2013). "Dish Network's Charlie Ergen Is the Most Hated Man in Hollywood". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  7. ^ Ramachandran, Shalini (June 4, 2015). "Dish's Finicky CEO Is Wild Card in T-Mobile Talks". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  8. ^ Roberts, Michael (21 March 2017). "Meet Colorado's Ten Billionaires". Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Chairman and chief executive officer, EchoStar Communications Corporation" (Press release).
  10. ^ "Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen, the TV Disrupter". Advertising Age. 4 December 2012.
  11. ^ "Federal Court Won't Block Dish's 'AutoHop'" (Press release). MultiChannel.
  12. ^ "Dish's AutoHop scores another legal win". Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ "EchoStar to Acquire Hughes for About $1.32 Billion" (Press release). Bloomberg. 14 February 2011.
  14. ^ "DISH Network's Intriguing 2011 Acquisitions" (Press release). 4 December 2012.
  15. ^ Stempel, Jonathan (21 July 2015). "Harbinger sues Dish, Ergen over LightSquared, seeks $1.5 billion". Reuters.
  16. ^ "Dish, Ergen Escape Harbinger's $1.5B Suit Over LightSquared - Law360".
  17. ^ "Shareholders Sue Dish, Charlie Ergen Over $2.2 Billion Spectrum Bid". The Hollywood Reporter. 26 September 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Female EchoStar Executives Charge Ergen with 'Abusive Behavior'". Denver Post. United States. 6 April 2005.
  19. ^ "EchoStar worker suit alleges sex misconduct". 2006-06-12. Retrieved 2016-03-28.
  20. ^ a b c "Oral History of Viola Ergen, Interviewed by Keith McDaniel". Center for Oak Ridge Oral History (Interview). 18 July 2011. "We joined the Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church in '48 when we came here."
  21. ^ a b c "BusinessWeek resume". Businessweek.
  22. ^ a b c Keating, Stephen (1999). Cutthroat: High Stakes & Killer Moves on the Electronic Frontier. Big Earth Publishing. ISBN 9781555662486.
  23. ^ Weatherford Mortuary: "Viola Siebenthal Ergen" Archived 2015-09-25 at the Wayback Machine May 21, 2013
  24. ^ a b c "Dish Network, the Meanest Company in America".
  25. ^ "Dish Network Board of Directors". Dishnetwork (Press release).
  26. ^ Shea, Dann (19 October 2008). "Charles Ergen: Meet America's Richest Media Mogul You've Never Heard Of". HuffPost Canada.
  27. ^ Iwatani, Yukari (30 October 2001). "Former gambler Ergen wins a big round: A career defying the odds". National Post. Canada.
  28. ^ Ramachandran, Shalini (4 June 2015). "Dish's Finicky CEO Is Wild Card in T-Mobile Talks". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 September 2018 – via
  29. ^ "Charlie Ergen, WFU commencement". 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-01-30.
  30. ^ a b "Entrepreneurs Unplugged: Charlie Ergen, Chairman, DISH Network". (Press release).
  31. ^ a b "Silicon Flatirons: Charlie Ergen, Chairman, DISH Network". 17 April 2012. Archived from the original on 29 September 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  32. ^ Smith, Steve (17 October 2012). "CEA Inducts CE Hall Of Fame Class of 2012". Twice Magazine. Retrieved 15 May 2018.

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