Dugan ankles as EchoStar prexy

Exec to join board of directors, replaces Dea

NEW YORK — EchoStar prexy and chief operating officer Michael Dugan is ankling his position after 14 years at Charlie Ergen’s second-ranked satcaster.

Company on Monday announced that Dugan, 55, has chosen to retire from his post as of April 30 and will join the board of directors and serve as a senior adviser beginning May 6. Dugan will replace outgoing director Peter Dea, who’s resigning from the board “for personal reasons.”

A gracious Ergen said he would have preferred to retain Dugan “in a more involved capacity, but I’m delighted to have him available as an adviser.”

Company said Dugan’s chores will be absorbed among existing execs until a new replacement has been found. “Mike will be difficult to replace, but fortunately we still have a terrific management team at EchoStar with excellent skills and a level of dedication second to none,” Ergen said in a statement.

Dugan cashed out some $11 million in EchoStar stock options last year, but analysts said his parting appeared to be amicable. He is credited as the chief architect of the technological foundation upon which the Dish Network was founded, having began his career at EchoStar in engineering.

Dugan said he plans to speed up efforts to make his Whistling Elk guest ranch in northern Colorado available to disadvantaged children.

Since he took the helm of the satcaster in April 2000, EchoStar added 5.5 million subscribers. But the company’s future may be more challenging.

EchoStar last month disclosed a mixed bag of financial results for the fourth quarter and full year 2003, revealing that the cost of acquiring new satellite subs was falling while revenues per sub seem to be remaining flat.

Investors say that while the company is well run and delivers strong cash flow, it will be under increasing pressure from DirecTV and cable operators. EchoStar has focused on the low end of the market with a value-priced package. That will put increasing pressure on the bottom line as the company spends more money to offer high definition and digital video recorder boxes.

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