EchoStar Communications Corp. chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen came off cool
and confident Wednesday as he pitched his proposed $26 billion merger with
Hughes Electronics Corp. before a group of occasionally skeptical, occasionally
sycophantic Washington, D.C., lawyers.
"If this is not a good deal for consumers, then [regulators] should not allow
this merger," Ergen said. "But I am convinced that it is because I talk to my
customers every day and I know that the economics of putting the two companies
together will allow us to have lower prices than we otherwise would and have
more services than we otherwise would."
Still, at least two lawyers at the Federal Communications Bar Association's
luncheon questioned Ergen on his business practices and his treatment of
Ergen responded: "It's frustrating to me that your clients oppose the merger
but expect us to deny the law of physics" and provide more spectrum to local
broadcasters than is available.
Ergen ended up turning that complaint into another reason to justify the
merger because combining the two companies would mean greater spectrum
efficiencies and more space for more programming.
Ergen also gave the audience a hint of his secret to success: "We're proud at
EchoStar that our average rate of increase over the last five years has been 2
percent, lower than the rate of inflation. Cable in that same period of time is
three times the rate of inflation," he said. "My poor employees have to sleep
two to a room so that we don't have to raise rates. There ain't a cable
executive in the world that sleeps two to a room. I sleep with my truck