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Home » Colorado Mavericks: Todd Neff at TEDxMileHigh (Full Transcript)

Colorado Mavericks: Todd Neff at TEDxMileHigh (Full Transcript)


So many success stories. Personal, professional, business, politics, art, science. So many success stories involve some huge leap, some leap into the void that pays off and leads to fortune. You may find these stories inspirational. I have to be perfectly honest: I find them daunting, a little bit unsettling. Because I look at my own life and I ask, “Is this going to happen to me, and if it does, will I recognize it? And if I recognize it, will I have the guts to make the leap myself?”

So I took a look at some of these leaps into the void, because if super successful peoples’ success in fact does not hinge upon living on the edge, then maybe there’s hope for me. In particular, I look at the stories of three of the world’s most successful business men. They’re from right here in Colorado.

First is Charlie Ergen, Chairman of Dish Networks; John Malone, who is a former CEI of TCI, the cable company and founder of Liberty Networks; and then the diversified investor, Philip Anschutz, who made his money in oil and gas, telecommunications, railroad, and more recently, entertainment. He owns entertainment venues all over the world, including the Staples Center in Los Angeles. He doesn’t own this, yet. These are the three richest people in Colorado by billions of dollars.

Each is self-made. Each is a brilliant businessman, strategist, tactician, financial engineer, and each has his own story, his own legendary story about how he took some pivotal risk early in a career that led on to the business pantheon. So let’s take a look at these legends.

First, Charlie Ergen. It’s 1980; Charlie Ergen is 27 years old, bouncing around the West, he tries his hand as a professional card player, runs into a satellite-dish salesman, is intrigued – 10-foot dishes, about the size of this red dot. He convinces his future wife Cantey and his friend Jim DeFranco to put together $60,000 to buy the sales franchise rights for the mountain west. The business is quite successful, so much so, in fact, that they have to change the name from EchoSphere to EchoStar because the foreign partners are having a hard time pronouncing the word ‘sphere.’

But he wants more; he wants his own satellites broadcast direct to homes. So he gets the license finally, after years of trying, in 1992, but he doesn’t have his own satellite, so he loads up on $335 million in junk bonds, 13% interest, and hires what’s now known as Lockheed Martin to build him two: EchoStar One and EchoStar Two. They’re very cartoonish-looking satellites.

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