Dish Network Corp. said satellite-television pioneer Charlie Ergen stepped down as chief executive, signalling the end of the hands-on control of the company he founded more than three decades ago.
The Englewood, Colo., company named Joseph Clayton president and chief executive as his replacement. He also joins the board on June 20. Ergen is to remain chairman of Dish.
Ergen's departure as chief executive indicates his confidence in Dish's health. The company's first-quarter profit more than doubled as its subscriber growth bounced back to health. More importantly, it ended its years-long legal battle with TiVo Inc. over the use of "time-warp" technology heavily used by digital video recorders.
"To us, it means that Dish is in good enough shape for Charlie to feel comfortable handing over the reins to someone else," said Marci Ryvicker, an analyst at Wells Fargo.
The move is part of Ergen's desire to move away from the day-to-day operations of his various businesses. In 2009, he stepped down as the CEO of sister company Echostar Corp., naming Mike Dugan as his replacement. Analysts don't believe Ergen is giving up on the satellite business.
Ergen is likely freeing himself up for more big-picture strategic decisions. Dish and Echostar have been accumulating assets with wireless spectrum over the past few months. It's unclear what the two companies will use that spectrum for, but options include building a wireless network or selling the combined spectrum to a carrier.
Clayton previously served as Sirius' CEO from 2001 to 2004 and as its chairman from 2004 to 2008. Before that, he served as president of Global Crossing North America, as president and chief executive of Frontier Corp. and as Thomson SA's marketing executive for the Americas and Asia.
Clayton will be tasked with continuing Ergen's recent shift in strategy to target more affluent customers, emulating rival DirecTV Inc.
"Joe is a 38-year veteran of the consumer electronics, telecommunications and satellite communications industries and I am pleased to have him lead DISH Network as president and CEO," chairman Charles W. Ergen said in a statement. "Joe brings an enormous amount of executive-level experience in the satellite and consumer electronics industries."
Dish shares closed Friday at $28.81 and were inactive premarket. The stock is up 47% so far this year.
Roger Cheng is a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires, where this story originally appeared. Write to him here.