12. Colorado : Charles Ergen
One of the toughest dealmakers in the cable and satellite TV business, Charles Ergen is taking back the reins at DISH Networks as CEO nearly four years after he had stepped away. Ergen is fresh off a 2014 legal victory against former billionaire Phil Falcone, who sued Ergen for “racketeering” because Ergen personally bought debt in bankrupt communications company LightSquared using cash from his daughter’s trust fund while Dish, which he controls, was planning its own bid for LightSquared. The judge did not find Ergen at fault. Now Ergen is looking to move his company into the wireless sector. He spent more than $10 billion snatching up wireless spectrum at a government auction in January 2015. He recently moved into streaming TV, too.
The son of an Austrian nuclear physicist who emigrated to the U.S. in the wake of WWII, Ergen became a professional gambler after college, but apparently got thrown out of a Las Vegas casino for counting cards in blackjack. Along with a friend and his wife Cantey, they began selling satellite dishes in rural Denver from the back of their truck in 1980. Ergen is an avid mountain climber who has climbed Mount Everest.