* Meyer, 58, is also being considered to be permanent CEO
* Executive has been at Sirius XM since 2004
* Outgoing CEO Mel Karmazin stepped down Tuesday
* Liberty close to gaining control of company
By Liana B. Baker
Dec 19 Sirius XM Radio Inc named Jim
Meyer as interim chief executive officer on Wednesday and said a
search committee was considering making the longtime executive
the satellite radio company's full-time CEO.
Meyer, who most recently was president of sales and
operations at Sirius XM, emerged in recent months as a leading
contender to replace Mel Karmazin, Reuters had reported
. His appointment takes effect immediately.
Karmazin quit as CEO on Tuesday and resigned from the board,
Sirius XM said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange
"Given Jim's current position, we expect this will be a
seamless transition," Sirius XM Chairman Eddy Hartenstein said
in a statement.
Meyer will also join the company's board. He will receive a
base salary of $1.3 million a year as well as an annual bonus
that the compensation committee will determine later, the filing
Karmazin's base salary was $1.5 million in 2011, and he
received $9.2 million in bonuses, according to Sirius XM's 2011
If another executive takes over as CEO and Meyer leaves the
company, the interim CEO will receive "an additional lump sum
bonus," the company said, without providing a specific amount.
Meyer, 58, oversees the company's auto industry
relationships, which account for the bulk of its revenue. Former
colleagues have described him as the "No. 2" executive who
worked closely with Karmazin and helped bring all the components
of the company together.
He joined Sirius XM in 2004, the same year as Karmazin.
"Meyer has been with Mel (Karmazin) and been like the
assistant coach for eight years and involved in everything Mel
was doing," said a source who knows Meyer but is not authorized
to talk to the media about him. "This is a very smooth
The timing of Meyer's appointment was unexpected since
Karmazin was not scheduled to step down until February.
Gabelli & Co analyst Brett Harriss said Meyer would have to
deal with Sirius XM's higher royalty payments to artists, price
increases and product introductions.
Along with Hartenstein, the committee formed to search for a
permanent CEO includes Sirius XM board member James Mooney and
Greg Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media Corp, a major
shareholder of the company.
Sirius XM said on Wednesday that the committee was
considering internal and external candidates, including Meyer.
From his days working at Thomson Consumer Electronics, Meyer
has had a strong relationship with Hartenstein, which may lead
to the Sirius XM chairman's support for him as permanent CEO.
Thomson had DirecTV as a client when Hartenstein was the
satellite TV company's president, Reuters has reported.
However, people who have worked with Meyer say he lacks
strong programming experience, which could hurt his chances. A
large part of Sirius XM's business involves securing
high-profile contracts with talent, such as radio host Howard
Stern, and airing exclusive content to keep subscribers paying
for the service.
Sirius XM President and Chief Content Officer Scott
Greenstein oversees the company's programming.
The executive shuffle at Sirius comes as Liberty Media tries
to gain a controlling interest in the company. Liberty acquired
a roughly 40 percent stake in 2009 as part of a deal in which it
loaned Sirius XM $530 million to help the company avoid
Liberty had to wait until last March before it could
increase its stake, which it started doing almost immediately by
acquiring shares on the open market. It now controls nearly 50
percent of the company and is awaiting the U.S. Federal
Communications Commission's approval to take full control and
potentially replace the board.
Even without that approval, Liberty already appears to be
making the major decisions at Sirius XM.
For example, Sirius XM last week announced a $2 billion
share buyback program and a special dividend that returns about
$160 million to Liberty, which had been talking openly about a
large stock repurchase at the satellite radio company for
Karmazin, who had been CEO since 2004, had previously said
he did not want to work for a controlling shareholder, which may
have been part of the reason he left Sirius XM.
With 23 million subscribers, Sirius is the largest U.S.
satellite radio provider, but it faces competitors that include
online music services Pandora and Spotify.
Sirius XM shares were down 0.3 percent to $2.95 in midday