EchoStar’s Ergen Hires a COO

EchoStar Communications Corp. chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen has a new chief operating officer — and installed a familiar face as vice chairman last week.

Ergen, known as the controlling type, last week hired Michael Neuman as COO, filling a post that had been vacant for more than a year.

And Carl Vogel, who’s been an EchoStar director since May, stepped into the executive ranks, becoming a full-time company employee as vice chairman of the operator of direct-broadcast satellite service Dish Network.

A onetime EchoStar COO, Vogel left Charter Communications Inc. as CEO in January “by mutual agreement” with its board (and with a separation package) 11 months before his contract expired.

In a securities filing, Charter said Vogel was bound by noncompete restrictions until Dec. 31 except for a “carve out” for companies based in the Denver area. EchoStar is based in nearby Englewood, Colo.

Neuman was president of Bell Mobility, the wireless subsidiary of Bell Canada Enterprises, and had previously been president of Bell ExpressVu Satellite Television, the Canadian DBS operator.

“We are fortunate Carl and Michael have joined the EchoStar team,” Ergen said in a statement. “Their knowledge of the industry and managerial talent will strengthen our company and position it for continued success.”

Vogel will now become a full-time EchoStar employee, focusing his efforts on financial and strategic initiatives.

He was EchoStar’s president from 1994 to 1997. He went to work for Charter chairman Paul Allen in 2001, replacing Jerald Kent, who left after a falling out with Allen. Kent now heads an MSO called Cebridge Connections Inc.

Ironically, under Vogel, Charter suffered from a huge debt load and, at times, steep losses in basic subscribers. Many of those losses were to Ergen’s EchoStar or DBS leader DirecTV Inc.

Neuman, with both wireless and satellite experience, said in a statement he was “excited about joining the company that has been such an innovator in the pay TV industry.”

“EchoStar’s combination of energy and entrepreneurialism gives it a unique place in the media industry and I’m thrilled to be back,” Vogel said in the release. [EchoStar said none of the executives was available to be interviewed last week.]

“EchoStar has built a significant business and an excellent relationship with its customers, providing a platform and a balance sheet to participate in a number of new opportunities for an expansion of its business that would add value to our customers and shareholders.”