Former Viacom COO Karmazin takes the reins at Sirius

MUMBAI: Mel Karmazin, who earlier this year had left Viacom as its president and COO after a protracted dispute with Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone over strategy and the balance of power, has joined Sirius Satellite Radio as its CEO.

For Karmazin, it marks a return to his "professional roots". Karmazin has almost four decades of experience in the radio industry and is credited with building Sirius' rival Viacom's Infinity into a national broadcaster.

Sirius' high profile hiring comes just a month after it signed on talk-show host Howard Stern.

Karmazin was Stern's boss at Viacom's Infinity radio, where the announcer had the top-rated show among young men in New York and Los Angeles.

Karmazin succeeds Joseph P Clayton, who will remain at Sirius as chairman of the board of directors. Clayton said, "The hiring of Mel Karmazin is the final piece in the turnaround of Sirius that began when I joined the company three years ago. My contract was ending on 31 December, and I advised the board of directors that I was willing to stay on for a transitional period. When Mel left Viacom, we all felt we had a unique opportunity.

"I am very confident that Mel will accelerate the very positive momentum that we have established at Sirius in the past two years. Our recent announcement of the signing of Howard Stern, our exclusive relationship with the National Football League and the partnerships with automakers such as DaimlerChrysler, Ford and BMW, are all indications that satellite radio has a central role in the future of broadcast media. We fully expect to achieve the subscriber projections we have given to Wall Street for this year."

Explaining the logic behind this latest career move Karmazin said, " I want to lead a growth company that can reshape the landscape of the radio business. I took Infinity Broadcasting and Westwood One to leadership positions in the industry and am confident that Sirius will become a market leader in short order.

"I will inherit a first-class management group led by co-presidents Scott Greenstein and James Meyer. I look forward to working closely with Joe Clayton and the strong team that he has assembled."

When Karmazin left Viacom there was speculation that he could succeed Michael Eisner as Disney CEO. However later on Eisner made it clear that he wanted Bob Iger to succeed him. Reports indicate that traditional radio in the US is struggling with flat revenues and declining audiences. Stern was in New York a few day ago handing out free subscriptions to Sirius.

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