Move was anticipated after merger proposal

XM Satellite Radio chief exec Hugh Panero confirmed Tuesday he will leave the company in August as federal regulators weigh whether to approve the planned merger with Sirius Satellite Radio.

Panero, a former Time Warner Cable exec, has been with XM since 1998, the year after it received an FCC license to operate. He oversaw the launch of XM’s satellite radio service and helped it grow its subscriber count to 8 million.

Despite XM’s larger sub base, Sirius had the bigger market cap, and under the merger agreement reached in February, Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin will lead the company if the deal is approved, so Panero’s exit was expected.

XM chairman Gary Parson is staying aboard and will hold the same position in the combined company.

“Hugh took satellite radio from a concept and turned it into the popular, mass-market, consumer entertainment product it is today,” Parsons said in a statement.

While the two companies await Federal Communications Commission approval, XM appointed Nate Davis as interim CEO. Davis was recruited by Panero as president and chief operating officer of the company in 2006.

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