Denver, CO

The Denver billionaire giving his fortune away

Ash Jurberg

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I have been writing a series of articles on entrepreneurs and business leaders who have decided to give back to the community.

Today it's time to like at Charlie Ergen- the Denver billionaire who has promised to donate most of his fortune.

The Denver billionaire

When Charles Ergen began selling satellite dishes out of the back of a truck in Denver in 1980, he wouldn't have imagined that forty years later, he would be a billionaire many times over.

Let's take a quick look at how that happened.

Ergen was born in Oak Ridge, Tennesse, in 1953. He earned a Bachelor of Arts and Science at the University of Tennessee and then did a Master of Business Administration at Wake Forest University in Carolina, graduating in 1976.

By 1980 Ergen was living in Denver, and together with his future wife Candy and a business partner Jim DeFranco, they started a new business called EchoSphere Corporation. Together the three of them invested $60,000 in the business and drove around Denver and rural Colorado selling C-band full-size satellite television dishes.

In 1987 Ergen applied for a direct broadcast satellite license with the Federal Communications Commission and was granted access to orbital slot 119° west longitude in 1992. On December 28, 1995, EchoStar successfully launched its first satellite into space, and three months later, they established the DISH Network brand name to market its home satellite TV system.

In 1996 he took the company public.

EchoStar now has ten satellites in space, bringing hundreds of channels of television, audio, and other data to over 11 million subscribers.

Ergen is still known for spending his money wisely despite his enormous wealth. His office is furnished with second-hand couches, and he does not fly first class.

All of this has led to a net worth of $6.1 billion- and he has promised to give most of it away.

The Giving Pledge and Philanthropy

In 2002 Ergen established the Telluray Foundations to promote and sustain vibrant communities within Littleton, Colorado, and the surrounding areas in Denver.

The Foundation believes "in a framework for thriving communities that include economic vitality, environment, health, and outdoor recreation, leadership, arts, education, mental health, and local institutions."

Recent donations include:

  • $500,000- to Teach for America to transform education in Denver
  • $500,000 to Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation
  • $250,000 to Colorado Academy to construct a new gym in Denver

In 2018, Charlie and his wife Candy signed the Giving Pledge. This is a promise to give most of their fortune away while they are still alive.

Readers, what do you think of Charlie Ergen's commitment to charity? And what organizations in Denver would you like to see him support?

Please leave your comments below.

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