December 5, 2017 / 2:17 PM / 12 days ago

Dish co-founder Ergen steps down from CEO role to focus on wireless

(Reuters) - Dish Network Corp (DISH.O) said on Tuesday co-founder Charlie Ergen has stepped down from his chief executive role to devote more time to build out the company’s wireless business.

Erik Carlson, president and chief operating officer, will take over as CEO but will continue to report to Ergen, the U.S. satellite and internet TV provider said.

Ergen, who stepped down as president in 2015, will remain the company’s chairman.

Ergen has spearheaded the company’s recent expansion, including the launch of streaming service Sling TV and the acquisition of wireless spectrum - areas where he intends to focus.

“We are not overly surprised by the move as Mr. Ergen likely devotes much of his time to wireless already,” Jefferies analyst Scott Goldman wrote in a client note.

Dish is battling intense competition in the traditional pay-TV market and has been buying up wireless airwaves, or spectrum, in recent years.

The company also faces a Federal Communications Commission deadline to use the spectrum by 2021 to build its first wireless network. Some investors say Ergen will likely want a partner to help share the cost of the investment, even though he has said the company can build the network by itself.

“The focus on mobility makes strategic sense as more and more consumption takes place in a mobile environment,” Jefferies Goldman said.

Dish’s hoarding of spectrum assets makes it an attractive target for a telecom major, analysts said after the collapse of merger talks between T-Mobile (TMUS.O) and Sprint (S.N).

    “(Ergen) will always have the authority, but maybe not the responsibilities of being the CEO,” said Roger Entner, analyst at Recon Analytics. “It’s just clearing up his schedule from the day-to-day of running Dish to do something else.”

    The move is not a first for Ergen. He relinquished his CEO post to Joe Clayton in 2011 and returned to helm Dish in 2015 amid subscriber losses. (reut.rs/2AsFNNc)

    “I have every confidence that under Erik’s leadership our new organizational structure will deliver value for DISH TV and Sling TV and will aid our entry into wireless,” Ergen said on Tuesday.

    Dish’s shares were up nearly 1 percent at $52.05 in afternoon trading.

    Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru and Anjali Athavaley in New York; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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