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Ergen Hikes in Himalayas as Fox Talks Go On

10/11/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Dish Network and Fox
Cable Networks executives
might be hunkered down in
tense carriage negotiations, but
one executive definitely won’t
feel the heat of the ongoing battle
— Dish chairman and CEO
Charlie Ergen. In fact, Ergen
won’t be feeling any heat at all,
as he is on vacation hiking the
Himalayas in Nepal.

That struck one close observer
of the carriage fight as a bit odd.
BTIG Research analyst Richard
Greenfield revealed that Ergen
was indeed at the Top of the
World, noting that while he rarely
cares about the private lives of
executives, Ergen’s doings have
become relevant to Dish stock.
He also pointed out that the Dish
chairman was absent from the
company’s Aug. 9 second-quarter
earnings call — during which it
announced losing 19,000 customers
— because of a pre-planned
family vacation. Now, with Dish
locked in an increasingly heated
dispute with Fox and MSG Networks,
Ergen is again cooling his
heels.

Greenfield was obviously having
a little fun in his blog posting
— it included a picture of Mount
Everest with this fake Ergen Facebook
status update: “I’m reachable
at the top of the world.” But
he also expressed some genuine
concern.

“While we realize there are
many capable executives at Dish
and would never expect Charlie
Ergen to be leading every move at
the negotiating table, we are surprised
he is totally disconnected
(physically) from tense negotiations
affecting his 14 million-plus
subscribers,” Greenfield wrote.

In a statement, Dish said that
it continues to actively negotiate
with Fox and hopes it can reach a
deal soon.

“Dish Network executives at
the highest level are actively negotiating
with Fox and continue
to hope for a fair deal so Fox will
return its regional sports channels
to our customers after pulling
them on Oct. 1,” the company
said in a statement when asked
for a response to Greenfield’s
blog. “Our executive team receives
guidance on a regular basis
from our CEO on significant
corporate matters. Day-to-day
negotiations are handled by senior
members of our executive
team directly with the president
of affiliate sales and marketing at
Fox.”

Greenfield, in a research note,
said he was told of Ergen’s whereabouts
by Dish executive vice
president Michael Kelly at an
industry event, and added that
Kelly informed him Ergen was
preparing to hike Everest.

“We wish Mr. Ergen a safe
climb and the best of luck,”
Greenfield wrote.

September