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At XM, Boldly Going

XM spokesman Chance Patterson said the combination of Starbucks, Edwards and baseball is not part of an attempt to position XM as more high-brow than its rival. At least not intentionally. Edwards, in particular, is more a reflection of Panero's tastes. Panero, a longtime Edwards fan, was unhappy when NPR dismissed him from Morning Edition, Patterson said, and seized the opportunity to woo Edwards to XM with a prime-time show built around him.

Edwards said he didn't pursue any options outside of XM. "They said everything I wanted to hear," he said.


XM Satellite Radio chief executive Hugh Panero, who joined the company in 1998, keeps his office door open, shouting over to Chairman Gary M. Parsons during the work day. (Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)

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Karmazin, while famous for hiring Stern and Don Imus when he ran Infinity Broadcasting Corp., is not known for taking great interest in programming. At Viacom, he once dismissed the creative side of the broadcast business "arts and crafts," according to the Wall Street Journal.

His Enterprise

Panero's sensibilities permeate XM's headquarters, a renovated printing factory in the Eckington section of Washington. The rough setting outside -- just off New York Avenue NE, by a Wendy's and a FedEx distribution center -- gives way to an industrial loft-style interior filled with high-tech equipment and young, hip-looking staffers.

Panero's playfulness comes through in the second-floor control room, a glassed-in area with a wall of sound monitors, a floor with lights, and what everyone at XM calls "the Captain Kirk chair." Panero sat in it and pressed a button to launch XM in 2001. He and his staff have made use of it at Halloween, dressing up as characters from Star Trek.

Panero keeps the door to his office open. So does his neighbor, XM Chairman Parsons. The two shout over to each other several times a day, Panero said.

"We're a team," said Panero, referring to himself and the other senior managers. "We share everything. . . . It's a very unique environment."

After his wife, Mary Beth Durkin, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001, that collaborative effort extended to Panero's personal life as well.

Durkin underwent chemotherapy for two years. Her weight dropped to 90 pounds. As a result of chemo, she sometimes suffered from dementia. Panero juggled taking care of her with looking after their two children and the demands of a growing company. His colleagues at XM organized a bone marrow drive to find a match for Durkin. Panero's neighbors in Chevy Chase fed his children and last year took them in while Panero and Durkin traveled to Seattle for her successful bone marrow transplant.

Earlier this month, several XM employees and Panero's neighbors joined Panero and Durkin at a Washington banquet hosted by the Marrow Foundation, where Durkin, Panero and the woman who donated life-saving stem cells to Durkin met in person for the first time. At the event, Panero choked up at the podium as he introduced his wife; over at the XM table, his employees wiped away tears.

The Path to XM

As a manager, Panero admits to modeling himself after Richard R. Aurelio, an ex-Newsday editor and former deputy mayor of New York under John V. Lindsay. In the 1980s, Warner Amex Cable Communications Inc. hired Aurelio to help win the New York City cable franchise. Panero, then a journalist, caught Aurelio's eye with his aggressiveness and smarts. Aurelio hired him for Warner's government relations shop. The two later moved over into operations.


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