Former Pepsi exec named CEO of company

DirecTV made the choice of a new generation Wednesday, tapping Pepsi exec Michael White as its new president and CEO.

White replaces Chase Carey, who exited the top job at DirecTV in July to return to News Corp. as deputy chairman, prexy and chief operating officer.

White officially takes control of the satcaster on Jan. 1, and will join its board of directors.

White serves as CEO of PepsiCo Intl. and vice chairman of PepsiCo. But in September, the exec announced his plan to retire before the end of the year.

The choice of White to head DirecTV surprised many industry observers, who were expecting Carey’s replacement to come from within the TV industry.

“I’m perplexed,” one exec said. “The biggest challenge is he’s going from a hugely bureaucratic company to one that has a bare-bones personnel. It’s a much more entrepreneurial job.”

But insiders noted that White comes with a consumer marketing background, and also oversaw major acquisitions at Pepsi — including the recent move to purchase Pepsi Bottling Group and PepsiAmericas, the company’s two largest bottlers.

Whether or not that signals DirecTV is heading into a more acquisition-minded direction remains to be seen.

White’s international experience will also come in handy for DirecTV, which already has a presence in Latin America and is looking to grow that operation.

PepsiCo chairman/CEO Indra Nooyi said while announcing White’s exit in September that the exec had “led a dramatic transformation of our international business, helping to grow total sales outside North America to close to $20 billion, from less than $8 billion in 2003.”

DirecTV Board chairman John Malone announced the White’s DirecTV appointment on Wednesday.

“After a very thorough search, we have found an exceptional leader with a sustained track record of success, profitably growing businesses and a reputation for making the impossible possible,” Malone said. “Mike also brings the highest degree of leadership, innovation and passion to the table — all qualities that will help drive DirecTV’s performance in the coming years.”

Carey’s exit was said to catch DirecTV brass by surprise; the resulting search committee was then impacted by internal politics — Malone’s initial plan to name a successor himself was blocked by the board. Instead, a search committee was formed to find Carey’s replacement.

Larry Hunter had been serving as interim CEO since Carey’s departure in June. Hunter had been a contender for the permanent gig. DirecTV Latin America CEO Bruce Churchill was also rumored to have been a contender.

According to Bloomberg, White took home $10.1 million in 2008 from PepsiCo — including his $1 million base salary. Carey was paid $12.3 million at DirecTV last year, including his base $2.3 million salary.

White first joined PepsiCo as VP of planning for Frito-Lay North America in 1990, working his way up through the company since then.

White’s resume also includes exec stints at Avon Products, Bain and Co. and Arthur Andersen.

DirecTV has recently started touting its plans to dramatically expand its stable of HD channels to nearly 200, and has also been kicking the “TV Everywhere” tires, potentially joining that web programming service. The company also faces increased competition from rivals offering discounted and varied bundled services.

“It’s a great company with the best television service and a strong brand,” White said.

Separately on Wednesday, DirecTV rival EchoStar announced that Michael Dugan had been named prexy and CEO of the company. Charlie Ergen, who had held those roles, continues as chairman of EchoStar Corporation. (Ergen is also chairman of Dish Network Corp.)

Dugan, who was already on EchoStar’s board of directors, was previously president and chief operating officer at the former EchoStar/Dish parent company from 1990 to 2004. EchoStar, which handles settop boxes, satellite transmission equipment and owns Sling Media, separated from Dish Network in 2008.

“Mike was the chief architect behind the technological foundation for EchoStar and Dish Network,” Ergen said.

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