Charles W. "Charlie" Ergen was once known as a professional blackjack player but today his name is mostly associated with the name of his company EchoStar Communications Corporation. Ergen is said to have entered the satellite business with nothing and with minimum input he became an important player in the television communications industry.
When Ergen started his company he called it EchoSphere. He opened his business in 1980 in his home state of Colorado and he sold C-band full-size satellite television dishes. By 2004 Echostar was the second largest satellite broadcast provider in the US. It had 9 satellites in orbit around earth and 15,000 employees serving over nine million customers.
Charlie Ergen's interest in satellites started when he was just a little boy and his father took him out to a field to watch the Russian satellite Sputnik. His father, William Ergen, was a nuclear physicist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and his mother Viola used to manage the business of the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge. Ergen got a thorough education after his high school graduation. He got a BA from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and then a MBA from the Wake Forest University. Having graduated business school Ergen started working as a public accountant for the snack maker Frito-Lay. Parallel with this he played blackjack professionally.
Together with Jim DeFranco, Ergen tried his luck in Las Vegas. They both became known for being skilled players and it all ended with the two of them being ejected from the town after being accused of counting cards at blackjack. Although this spelled the end of their career as full time gamblers in Las Vegas it also gave them the idea that would bring them great success.
The company that was to serve so many people in rural areas had its birth in Vegas. It is said that as they left Las Vegas, Ergen and DeFranco saw a truck carrying a big satellite television disc. This is how they decided to go into the satellite television business. Bringing together their savings with a third partner, namely Cantey the future wife of Ergen, they started EchoSphere.
Charlie Ergen might not be known as a blackjack wiz but he does know how to bet on the right horse. His company has had great success and Ergen is known to be a tough businessman. Perhaps he gathered some of his attitude atby the blackjack table back in Vegas. He has been presented many awards, among them are: the Star Award, the Home Satellite TV Association Award in 1988, the Master Entrepreneur of the Year for the Rocky Mountain region, INC. in 1991, Space Industry Business Man of the Year, Aviation Week in 2000, CEO of the Year for the Satellite Industry, Frost & Sullivan in 2001 and he was ranked among the 400 Riches Americans by Forbes in 1998 and 2001.
Sam Marshall - Editorial Staff