Dish Network, the Meanest Company in America
Charlie Ergen, chairman and co-founder of Dish Network
Ergen founded Dish more than 30 years ago, installing satellite systems with partner Jim DeFranco. Dish is now the second-largest satellite TV provider in the U.S., with 26,000 employees. Ergen, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has an estimated net worth of $11 billion. That puts him among the world’s richest men and makes him one of America’s greatest entrepreneurial success stories. He’s also a living rebuke to a library of management textbooks that suggest fostering happy, self-actualized employees in a transparent environment of trust and communal effort is the path to wealth.
Michael Neuman knew the risks going in when he accepted Ergen’s offer to be Dish’s president and chief operating officer in 2005. Before Neuman, no president had lasted more than four years. Still, for Neuman, a man who’d known Ergen for more than a decade and had run a Dish-like satellite service in Canada, the opportunity was too tempting to pass up. Unlike its major competitor,, Dish was fully integrated: It engineered, built, and sold all its own set-top boxes and ran its own installation fleet and customer service. (The company split in 2008, with building the boxes and Dish doing everything else. Ergen remains chairman of both companies.) “If you’re a student of management like I am, it was irresistible,” says Neuman.