Charlie Ergen, the billionaire who runs Dish Network, has stepped down as CEO to focus on untapping billions of dollars of the company's unused wireless spectrum.
Investors are pressuring Ergen for a big-ticket deal to capitalize on the spectrum, which is ideal for streaming movies as well as maintaining a cellular signal over long distances. He spoke last month of new opportunities for wireless partnerships in the wake of the collapse of merger talks between Sprint and T-Mobile.
The company's future could ride on the spectrum as subscribers of Dish's satellite TV service flee for cheaper online services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. The timing of the change comes at what might be a pivotal moment for Dish as Ergen seeks a commercial application for the idle trove of airwave licenses.
"Last time there was a round of reshuffling, it gave Chairman Ergen the opportunity to pursue the strategic direction of the company," says Amy Yong, an analyst with Macquarie. "My guess is this signals the same."
Ergen will probably have to start building a network to put Dish's airwaves to use next year if he doesn't have a deal. Dish has to comply with Federal Communications Commission requirements that a network using the spectrum be deployed by 2020, Josh Yatskowitz, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said last month.
As chairman, the 64-year-old executive will continue to control the company he co-founded. Chief Operating Officer Erik Carlson, who has been with Dish since 1995, was promoted to CEO and will continue to report to Ergen, according to a statement Tuesday.
-- Bloomberg News