Dish co-founder and chairman Charlie Ergen first invoked the "Seinfeld strategy" on an earnings call in May 2011.
The billionaire media mogul, in his folksy Tennessee accent, was responding to an analyst who was trying to make sense of Dish's seemingly random mixed bag of assets. That list included Blockbuster stores purchased out of bankruptcy, Slingbox streaming devices and wireless spectrum, along with Dish's core satellite TV business.
Ergen recalled that a half-hour episode of the 1990s sitcom would often start with about 28 minutes of scattered scenes with no clear direction, "but it all seemed to come together in the last couple of minutes," he said. "And so I think in terms of where we're going strategically, you'll have to just wait and see where it all comes together."
It's been seven years since that earnings call. Dish investors are still waiting for an ending that ties everything together.
Over the last few years, Ergen has spent nearly $20 billion buying up unused spectrum — the radio frequencies that telecommunications companies use to build wireless networks — racking up more than $15 billion in debt on Dish's balance sheet, or more than seven times its cash position. Ergen, who stepped down as CEO in December but remains chairman and owns about half of the company's shares, wants to use this spectrum build a 5G wireless network that can compete with AT&T, Verizon, and a possible Sprint-T-Mobile combination.