October 25, 2012
It would be perfectly understandable if the market panicked at the news that Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) CEO Mel Karmazin would be leaving the company early next year.
In fact, after opening slightly lower yesterday, Sirius XM closed with a small gain on the day.
There were plenty of reasons to fear that Karmazin's decision to move on would hurt its shareholders:
- After hitting a fresh four-year high last week, shares of the satellite radio provider had inched lower in three consecutive trading days heading into Wednesday.
- Since Sirius bottomed out in early 2009, Karmazin was at the helm of one of the market's biggest winners. Could he ever truly be replaced?
- The decision to leave the company come February could be seen as a sign that Liberty Media (Nasdaq: LMCA ) is ready to take over majority control of the company. Fears of flooding the float in a tax-advantaged spinoff may have been unfounded. Liberty Media was able to pull off a similar stunt with DIRECTV (Nasdaq: DTV ) a couple of years ago without any major damage. However, uncertainty has a funny way of tripping up market darlings.
Who will lead Sirius XM? This is a call that will probably come down to Liberty Media's Chairman John Malone and CEO Greg Maffei to decide. The easy path may be to promote within Sirius XM as a show of solidarity and to keep morale in check, but there's probably no shortage of terrestrial radio execs or even online radio leaders who would love to hop on the steady and profitable growth that Sirius XM is working on these days.
We'll find out soon enough. Sirius XM reports next week, and Liberty Media's push to boost its effective stake in the company above 50% is just a small transaction or two away.
Running of the bulls
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