Dean Olmstead, president of EchoStar Satellite Services, who over a 26-year career in satellite telecommunications helped shape the current industry landscape, died of cancer Oct. 16. He was 55.
Olmstead played a key role in the industry’s consolidation, most notably as a member of the Executive Committee ofAstra, which he joined in 1998. In that capacity, he helped engineer the rise of what had been a European satellite operator focused mainly on direct-to-home television broadcasting to one of the top two global satellite operators, first by taking a one-third stake in Hong Kong-based AsiaSat and then by acquiring U.S. operator GE Americom outright for $5 billion.
He took over as president and chief executive of the newly renamed SES Americom of Princeton, N.J., in 2001 and is credited with moving that company into a number of new market segments. In 2005, Olmstead became president of Arrowhead Government Services, a major seller of satellite-based solutions to the Pentagon, and led that company through its acquisition by CapRock Communications, now a part of Harris Corp. He also formed Satellite Development LLC, a consultancy that advised clients on mergers and acquisitions. He also served on the board of directors of Loral Space & Communications and advised the company on its merger with Canadian satellite operator Telesat.
Olmstead was born in Oak Harbor, Wash., and received an undergraduate degree in economics and mathematics from Western Washington University in Bellingham in 1979. He earned a master’s degree in engineering economic systems from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1983.
He began his career with the U.S. government, serving in such positions at deputy director of the Satellite and Cable Policy Branch of the U.S. State Department and later at NASA as manager of the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite program, which built and launched an experimental satellite that helped usher in the use of Ka-band frequencies. He left NASA in 1992 to join Hughes Electronics Corp. in Los Angeles, at the time a major player in telecom satellite manufacturing and operations, where he held a variety of positions and helped build up the commercial industry in Japan.
He took the reins of EchoStar Satellite Services in 2008.
Olmstead is survived by his wife, Mara; two sons; three daughters; two brothers; a sister; and his parents.