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Austin To Leave DirecTV After Acquistion

El Segundo, Calif. – Amid media reports that News Corp. was seeking to install its own management personnel at Hughes Electronics if the acquisition wins federal regulatory approvals, DirecTV president and chief operating office Roxanne Austin announced she is leaving the company upon completion of deal.

News Corp. is currently awaiting federal approvals to acquire 34 percent of Hughe Electronics, including the DirecTV unit, from General Motors. The Los Angeles Times Thursday that News Corp. may be looking to install Mitchell Stern, chairman and chief executive of News Corp.’s FOX Television Stations group, to lead DirecTV. Stern would report to Chase Carey, who has been named by News Corp. to oversee Hughes and DirecTV after the acquisition. DirecTV chairman Eddy Hartenstein is expected to be named vice-chairman of Hughes after the deal.

In a prepared statement, Austin said: ‘I am very proud of what we have accomplished at DIRECTV in the past two years. Serving as DirecTV’s president and COO has been tremendously rewarding. I care deeply about DirecTV and its future success, but with this imminent transition I am taking the opportunity to pursue my long-term career goals and move on to new endeavors.’

Austin was named DirecTV president and COO in June 2001. Under Austin’s leadership, DirecTV’s revenue has increased 37 percent from $5.5 billion in 2001 to a projected $7.6 billion in 2003.

From the third quarter of 2001 through the third quarter of 2003, DirecTV subscriber growth has increased by 34 percent, as it has added more than 2.6 million net new customers.

Customer churn has been reduced from a monthly rate of 1.8 percent in 2001 to a current 1.5 percent, a 17 percent improvement. Operating profit before depreciation and amortization increased by approximately $780 million or over 360 percent from 2001 to 2003.

Net income has increased $378 million from a loss of $178 million in 2001 to a projected profit of $200 million in 2003. Annual cash flow improved from a negative $403 million in 2001 to a projected positive $400 million in 2003.

‘I want to thank Roxanne for her effective leadership through a very challenging period and difficult circumstances at DirecTV,’ said Chase Carey, CEO-designee of Hughes. ‘She brought a singular focus and boundless energy to DirecTV that has improved its performance in the last two years and positioned it for future growth. I wish her well as she goes forward to new challenges.’

Eddy W. Hartenstein, DIRECTV chairman and CEO, added, ‘While we respect her decision to pursue other opportunities, her passion and enthusiasm for DIRECTV will be missed.’

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Thursday that Federal Communications Commission personnel are having concerns how the News Corp. acquisition would impact the ability of cable operators to access programming produced by News Corp. companies. A decision is expected by the end of the year.