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EchoStar's $60 Mil. Buying Biz in Limbo

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LOS ANGELES -- EchoStar's estimated $60 million media buying business is adrift, following the exit of two top marketing executives and a sudden split with its broadcast buying agency, Aegis Group's Carat Los Angeles.

Ira Bahr, svp of marketing, and Mary Ferguson, vp of marketing for the Littleton, Colo.-based client, left the company in the last month. No replacements have been named, but the client is said to be talking to undisclosed media agencies.

Denver-based TMPG continues to work with EchoStar on radio promotions. Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, handles creative.

One executive said that after the planned EchoStar/DirecTV merger is completed, the new entity plans to keep DirecTV as the service's brand name and EchoStar as the corporate name. The executive added that the recent departures from the marketing department might be in preparation for those changes. Deutsch/LA handles DirecTV creative and media.

Carat was caught off guard by the moves, and in fact was talking to EchoStar about taking on additional business, according to sources. "EchoStar's marketing department is in disarray," said one source. "They treat everybody like a vendor. I don't think anybody really has that business; it's only parceled out on a project basis."

EchoStar executives were unavailable for comment. Carat declined comment.

In February, EchoStar and DirecTV, a unit of Hughes Electronics, unveiled plans for a merger valued at $26 billion. The union would add the Dish Network's 7 million customers to DirecTV's 10 million-plus subscribers and would create the largest pay-TV service in the U.S. Earlier this month, federal regulators halted their review of the deal, saying they needed more information.