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Former Viacom President to Join Howard Stern

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NEW YORK ( -- Sirius Satellite Radio today said Mel Karmazin has joined the company as its CEO. News of the appointment drove up the company's share price 21% after market trading closed.
Photo: AP
Mel Karmazin, former president and COO of Viacom, will become the CEO of Sirius Radio.

Mr. Karmazin replaces Joseph Clayton, who will become chairman of the board. Mr. Karmazin was the former president and chief operating officer of Viacom. He left the media giant in May after it became clear that he was unlikely to succeed Viacom's CEO, Sumner Redstone. Mr. Karmazin's name was also floated in connection with the CEO position at Walt Disney Co. that is being vacated by Michael Eisner.

The final piece
In a press statement issued this afternoon, Mr. Clayton said: "The hiring of Mel Karmazin is the final piece in the turnaround of Sirius that began when I joined the company three years ago. ... When Mel left Viacom, we all felt we had a unique opportunity."

Mr. Karmazin did not respond to an e-mail request for comment, and Sirius Satellite Radio, based in New York, did not return calls for additional comment.

Last week at a radio conference in Portugal Mr. Karmazin said his future involved either linking with an investment firm or joining a high-growth company or remain doing nothing. But Mr. Karmazin's name has been floated in connection with Sirius ever since the company signed radio personality Howard Stern to a five-year, $500 million deal.

Longtime relationship
Mr. Karmazin, at the time head of Infinity Radio, hired Mr. Stern in the mid-1980s after the shock jock was fired by WNBC radio, and he was a major catalyst in Mr. Stern's ascendance as a national media figure. Mr. Stern publicly lamented Mr. Karmazin's resignation from Viacom, which eventually bought Infinity, calling him "my backup here."

Meanwhile, Mr. Stern is reported to be in negotiations to exit his Viacom contract before it expires at the end of 2005. He orchestrated a rally today in New York's Union Square where, surrounded by strippers, he handed out free radios and railed against the Federal Communications Commission and corporate radio, with whom he has butted against over the often raunchy content of his radio shows. Mr. Stern is one of a number of personalities the satellite broadcaster has signed. Cycling legend Lance Armstrong hosts a show as does skateboard star Tony Hawk.

The appointment of Mr. Karmazin will be a major boost for the publicly traded company, which is battling rival satellite broadcaster XM Satellite Radio and its more than 2.5 million subscribers. Sirius Satellite Radio has 700,000 subscribers.

Squeezing advertisers
Mr. Karmazin also has a reputation for getting the most from its sales staff and squeezing maximum dollars from advertisers. While Sirius does carry some advertising on its talk channels, the company's revenues are based on subscriptions to the high-quality radio service. Advertising executives have said the company's success lies largely in how many auto dealers are prepared to sell the satellite radio units in their vehicles.

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