Friday, April 06, 2007

Wall Street Journal: XM's Gary Parsons Could Help Steer Merger To Approval

Satellite-Radio PlayHas Low-Key Driver
XM Chairman Parsons,Skilled Problem Solver, May Guide Sirius Deal
By SARAH MCBRIDE, April 6, 2007; Page B3, The Wall Street Journal

As XM Satellite Radio Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. pitch their controversial proposed merger to regulators, swashbuckling Sirius Chief Executive Mel Karmazin has been the deal's most prominent public face. But it is XM's quieter chairman, Gary Parsons, whose regulatory and problem-solving background could help steer the deal to approval.

Mr. Parsons has a long history of seeking creative solutions to thorny problems, and a reputation for clever behind-the-scenes horse trading that produces results everyone can live with. Earlier in his career, he worked with the late MCI Chairman Bill McGowan, the visionary executive who fought to end AT&T's monopoly in long distance. Today, Mr. Parsons works at a polished stone desk that once belonged to Mr. McGowan.

"He broke down a lot of laws and government regulations in order to allow competition to come to telecommunications," says Mr. Parsons of Mr. McGowan. Similarly, Mr. Parsons sees the XM-Sirius deal as a way to create greater competition to traditional broadcasters who until recently had the airwaves to themselves.

But while Mr. McGowan worked to break up a monopoly, XM and Sirius are trying to convince regulators that their combination won't create one. Key to the companies' argument is their contention that they compete not just with each other, but with broadcast radio, iPods, Internet music services and other audio offerings. The satellite companies say a merger would help consumers by creating a single, strong company that would give people more choice on one platform. Now, they argue, consumers must choose between baseball on XM and football on Sirius; Oprah on XM and Martha Stewart on Sirius; and Bob Edwards on XM and Howard Stern on Sirius.

• The Situation: The planned merger of satellite radio companies XM and Sirius faces intense regulatory scrutiny.
• Key Player: XM Chairman Gary Parsons could prove a secret weapon in negotiations with regulators.
• The Bottom Line: XM says it will thrive whatever the outcome -- but it believes a merger is the best solution.
Broadcasters strongly oppose the deal. They fear a single, stronger satellite service...read more: here

4/06/2007 09:20:00 PM

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