Ergen Gets A Raise

Dish Network chairman and CEO Charles Ergen's total compensation rose about 4% in 2008 to $2.66 million from $2.56 million in 2007, fueled mainly by a big jump in option awards.

Dish Network had one of the worst years in its history in 2008 -- it showed a net new subscriber loss of 102,000 customers for the year, it's first ever -- and has struggled as its stock price has fallen off a proverbial cliff. Dish stock was down 66.5% in 2008.  So far this year the stock has declined 5% to $11.11 per share.

According to its 2008 proxy statement filed after the market closed Tuesday, Ergen received a $600,000 base salary in 2008, an amount that was set the prior year. Ergen's base represented a 1.5% increase from $592,308 salary in 2007. But the biggest increase came in the form of options awards - Ergen received $1.69 million in option awards, a 17% rise from the $1.41 million in option awards he received in 2007.

Ergen received no bonus, no stock awards and no incentive plan compensation for the year.

Among top media executives, Ergen is generally one of the lowest-compensated --for instance, DirecTV Group CEO Chase Carey received total compensation of $13.9 million in 2007, more than five times Ergen's take that year. DirecTV has not filed its 2008 proxy yet. In the past and currently, Ergen derives most of his wealth from his control of the majority of Dish Network stock -- according to the proxy he controlled 42.1% of Dish's Class A common shares and 62.9% of its super-voting Class B shares. As a result, his personal fortune rises and falls with the company's.

Other executives didn't fare as well. Vice chairman Carl Vogel -- who announced his resignation earlier Tuesday -- saw his total compensation decline by 2.2% to $3.21 million from $3.28 million in 2007. Vogel, who had been scaling back on his duties for the past year, saw the biggest drop in his base salary -- $457,692 in 2008 versus $498,077 in 2007, an 8% decline. Vogel's stock awards also declined during the year -- to $885,804 in 2008 from $935,198 in 2007. But his option awards rose slightly,  to $1.84 million from $1.83 million in 2007.

Chief financial officer Bernard Han also saw is total compensation fall slightly,  by 0.3%, to $1.22 million from $1.23 million. Han received the same base salary as in 2007 -- $400,000 -- but he did not receive a bonus in 2008, compared to 2007, when he received $20,000.

Rounding out the top five, executive vice president James DeFranco had a 3% decrease in overall compensation to $1.13 million from $1.17 million in 2007. Executive vice president commercial business development Michael Kelly had the biggest decline - 13% -- in overall compensation from $1.23 million in 2007 to $1.1 million in 2008, fueled primarily by a big dip in options awards from $958,282 in 2007 to $783,274 in 2008.