Panero Out if XM, Sirius Merge

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XM Satellite Radio CEO and cable veteran Hugh Panero will leave the company when and if its planned $13 billion merger with Sirius Satellite Radio is completed, Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin told a group of employees Tuesday.

Current XM chairman Gary Parsons will continue that role in the new company if the merger is completed.

Karmazin -- who headed a town-hall gathering for Sirius on-air talent, employees and consultants at the McGraw-Hill building in New York Tuesday -- said Panero would continue to be CEO of XM through the merger process, but he would “not be with the companies when the merger happens.”

Karmazin alluded to two of his past jobs -- at CBS Westinghouse and Viacom -- where he was part of a tandem of top executives. Karmazin left Viacom in 2004 partly because of friction over how the company should be run with chairman Sumner Redstone.

“The hard part is in running the company,” Karmazin said. “You really can’t have a complex management structure. You really do need to have a CEO, and not a team and not co-CEOs and not multiple people running the company. And in this company going forward, both boards decided that I should be the one to run the company.”

Panero, who joined XM in 1998, had previously served as president and CEO of Request TV, a pay-per-view network owned by Liberty Media. He also spent 10 years at Time Warner Cable, where he was part of the team that built that company’s cable systems in Queens and Brooklyn, N.Y.

Karmazin also hinted that one way to achieve regulatory approval for the merger -- which many analysts believe will be almost impossible -- is by offering some form of a la carte programming.

He added that he has already met with all five Federal Communications Commission members, and their top priorities in evaluating whether the deal is in the public interest concern consumer choice and pricing.

“Three of the five commissioners have said that what they would like to see -- and they would also like to see this in cable television -- is a service where the consumer can decide which of the channels they want to get if they’re going to be expected to pay for it,” Karmazin said. “If somebody wants to have fewer choices, they’d like to see a service that we would have available to them with fewer channels and at a lower price.”

Karmazin tried to reassure employees that no massive layoffs will occur after the merger is completed, hopefully by the end of this year. He added that although both XM and Sirius have endured heavy losses, that is not the reason behind the merger.

Karmazin said that Sirius has incurred about $3.8 billion in losses since its inception, but “believe it or not, it’s as planned.”

He added that if the deal is rejected by the government “no harm, no foul,” stressing that the company is still viable and has a business plan to become profitable.

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