Former DISH, Sirius CEO Joe Clayton Dies


LOUISVILLE, KY. — A self-described “poor young kid from the hills of Bardstown” who became an international leader in telecommunications innovation and a trustee and lifelong supporter of his alma mater, Bellarmine University, has died.

Joe Clayton passed away on Nov. 3, leaving a legacy that includes more than four decades in the consumer electronics, telecommunications and satellite communications industries.

This was highlighted by roles as President/CEO of DISH Network and as Chairman/CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio prior to its merger with former rival XM.

Clayton was instrumental in the discovery and implementation of consumer electronic innovations, including the VCR, DVDs, satellite TV, HDTV and satellite radio, an obituary released Monday from Bellarmine University notes.

Clayton credited his Bellarmine liberal arts and business education with his ability to think on his feet and talk to anyone about most anything, the school notes. In fact, his generosity established the Joseph P. and Janet A. Clayton Field in Owsley B. Frazier Stadium, as well as Piazza Clayton just outside Our Lady of the Woods Chapel, which he gifted in memory of his father, Paul.

Clayton also established an endowed fund that provides full scholarships to Bellarmine for first-year students from his hometown.

As a first-year student, Clayton played Motown hits and other hits of the day on Bellarmine Campus Radio, which broadcast on carrier current through AC electrical wiring to all eight buildings on campus—a far cry from the 50 million listeners who would one day tune in to Sirius XM. His show was called The Bourbon Hour, a nod to his upbringing in the Bourbon Capital of the World, where his father was a liquor retailer and he worked in distilleries in the summer and on holidays.

“I didn’t know anything about the technical stuff; I just had fun putting on the headphones and talking into the microphone,” Clayton once said.

After earning his MBA in marketing and management from Indiana University, he became a trainee at RCA in New York.

This was the start of a professional career that included roles as President of Global Crossing North America, President/CEO of Frontier Corporation, and EVP/Marketing and Sales for the Americas and Asia of Thomson S.A. He was also a four-year member of the EchoStar Board of Directors and a former chair of the Consumer Electronics Association.

He was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2008.

In addition to his wife, Janet, Joe Clayton is survived by daughters Megan Stovall (Matthew), Kelly Herr (Brock), Kathleen Reitz (Andy), and Molly; son John Paul; grandchildren Samuel, Abigail, William and Lucas Paul; brother Mike Clayton (Leigh Ann); and sister Ellen Willett (Jerry). 

Visitation will be from 3-8 pm Thursday, Nov. 8, in Knights Hall at Bellarmine, located in Louisville, Kentucy. The funeral will be 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., with burial immediately to follow at St. Joseph.