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Orbit shifts at DirecTV

Carey carries more power

DirecTV topper Chase Carey is taking more direct control of the satcaster, as No. 2 exec Mitch Stern has ankled after only 14 months on the job.

Stern’s job as prexy-CEO of DirecTV, which had him overseeing day-to-day operations in the U.S., won’t be filled. Instead, Carey, prexy-CEO of DirecTV Group, will take on his responsibilities.

Stern’s departure will likely be costly for DirecTV. Exec earned $4 million in salary and bonus last year, and has a contract that runs through December 2007, meaning a multimillion-dollar buyout was in order.

Exiting exec was picked by Rupert Murdoch in late 2003 to oversee DirecTV’s operations when his News Corp. took a controlling stake in the satcaster. Stern’s departure means News Corp. execs now trust Carey to run the satcaster single-handedly. He was CEO of DirecTV parent company Hughes before it changed its name to DirecTV Group last year as it shed non-TV assets.

Stern’s title at DirecTV will vanish; all execs who reported to him will now report to Carey, including U.S. and Latin American operations.

In a sign the decision was motivated more by internal politics than changing needs: Stern’s background was in the TV biz, which is exactly where DirecTV has focused its energies and experienced the most growth. Company added 1.7 million subs last year to swell its total to 14 million.

Satcaster is expanding its high-tech programming efforts in areas including digital video recording and high-definition.

A spokesman said the move was tied to the company’s shedding, in the last year or so, of noncore assets, including its stakes in TiVo and XM, the PanAmSat satellite operation and a set-top-box manufacturing business.

Neither Stern nor Carey was available for comment

Shares in DirecTV closed up slightly at $15.40 Monday.

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