What makes him powerful: Once a professional blackjack player (who was tossed from a Las Vegas casino for counting cards), Charlie Ergen used his gambling savvy to build Dish Network from scratch into one of the nation's leading TV providers. It was no small task.
Ergen started his journey in the 1980s, selling C-band satellite TV dishes to rural homes in Colorado. Over the years he built Dish (previously called EchoStar) into the nation's biggest satellite TV provider with more than 14 million customers. Along the way he managed to essentially legitimize the industry; Ergen was instrumental in getting Congress to pass the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act in 1999, which gave American consumers the right to watch local TV channels via satellite.
But Dish's growth has slowed, and that likely spurred Ergen to his latest gamble. In quietly acquiring satellite communications providers TerreStar and DBSD in bankruptcy, Ergen has cobbled together 40 MHz of spectrum that he now plans to use to build a hybrid satellite-terrestrial mobile broadband network using LTE-Advanced network technology. And if that weren't enough, Dish's recent acquisition of Blockbuster could eventually lead to the creation of a mobile broadband company capable of supplying TV, Internet, communications services and streaming video entertainment all through a terrestrial-satellite system. It's a dizzying prospect, and one that Ergen may well achieve.
Of course, Ergen faces a range of challenges in getting his ambitions solidified--the first of which is obtaining FCC approval for the company's planned LTE-Advanced network. But judging from Ergen's history as a tenacious, politically shrewd businessman--along with his penchant for wagering--it's a distinct possibility he can pull it off. +Mike