Charlie Ergen

DEFINITION of 'Charlie Ergen'

The founder, chairman and CEO of DISH Network, a spinoff of former parent EchoStar Communications, which he cofounded in 1980 with his wife, Cantey Ergen, and James DeFranco. He is a billionaire and one of the wealthiest Americans, according to Forbes.

BREAKING DOWN 'Charlie Ergen'

Publicly-traded DISH Network, which has more than 14 million customers, is DirecTV's major competitor (a merger between the two companies failed in 2002). Ergen, born in 1953 in Tennessee, began his career as a financial analyst for Frito Lay, then briefly became a professional gambler before founding EchoStar. EchoStar started off selling satellite dishes to homes in rural Colorado and went public in 1995. DISH Network was formed and began broadcasting in 1996.