DirecTV, EchoStar get new CEOs

Wed, 11/18/2009 - 7:40am
Deborah Yao, AP Business Writer

DirecTV Group Inc. chose the vice chairman of PepsiCo Inc. as its CEO Wednesday, filling a vacuum created when its former chief left just as the nation's largest satellite TV provider was in the midst of a spin-off.

Michael White, 57, will take the CEO position on Jan. 1. He replaces Chase Carey, who left to become News Corp.'s president and chief operating officer on July 1.

White, who is also CEO of PepsiCo International, was scheduled to retire from his positions at PepsiCo this year.

He joined PepsiCo in 1990 and has held various management positions, including chief financial officer. White was involved in various acquisitions at PepsiCo, including those of the company's two largest bottlers – Pepsi Bottling Group and PepsiAmericas.

But White's experience is not a clear fit for DirecTV, which lost its CEO just as it was steadily gaining subscribers while its cable competitors were losing theirs.

"It didn't seem like a logical step in my mind," said David Silver, research analyst at Wall Street Strategies in New York. "Maybe what DirecTV needs is an outsider's point of view. Maybe that fresh blood is what the company needs to change things up."

White's appointment came a day before Liberty Media Corp., the controlling shareholder of DirecTV, was to hold a special shareholders meeting to vote on spinning off DirecTV and certain entertainment assets owned by Liberty into a separate company.

The spin-off should close shortly after the shareholders approve the deal as expected.

Media mogul John Malone, who controls Liberty Media, will own a 3 percent stake of the new company but control 24 percent of the vote.

DirecTV was once part of News Corp. In February 2008, Liberty Media swapped its 16.3 percent stake in News Corp. plus $625 million in cash for a controlling stake in DirecTV and three regional sports networks.

Separately, the sister company of Dish Network Corp. also had a change in management. EchoStar Corp., which provides set-top boxes and satellite services, said President and CEO Charles Ergen has stepped down from these positions.

He is succeeded by board member Michael Dugan. But Ergen will stay on as EchoStar's chairman and remain as CEO of Dish, a satellite TV operator based in Englewood, Colo.

DirecTV, based in El Segundo, Calif., serves more than 18 million customers in the U.S. and 6 million in Latin America. Shares were up 11 cents to $31.04 on Wednesday.

Liberty Media has its headquarters in Englewood, Colo., while PepsiCo is based in Purchase, N.Y.

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