EchoStar moves to fund Hughes play

EchoStar Corp. Chairman Charlie Ergen is in talks with SBC Communications Inc. and two other large telecommunications companies to help finance EchoStar's attempted buyout of Hughes Electronics, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Ergen spent much of the Memorial Day weekend meeting with advisers and investment bankers, according to the Journal. But Friday's abrupt retirement of Hughes Chairman Michael Smith, 57, was widely seen as a boost to News Corp.'s play for Hughes.

Smith had been opposed to a potential transaction with News Corp. and approached Ergen earlier this year to discuss a possible deal with EchoStar that could trump Mr. Murdoch's bid. Mr. Smith then continued to favor a potential linkup with EchoStar over the objections of superiors at General Motors Corp., which owns 30% of Hughes shares, the Journal reports.

Smith was being immediately replaced as Hughes's chairman by Harry J. Pearce, 58, who had been a GM vice chairman and had earlier recommended embracing the News Corp. proposal.