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An Arkansas native, Austin is a certified public accountant who started off her career at Deloitte & Touche, where she was a partner. She joined Hughes Electronics in 1993 and moved up over the years to become its chief financial officer.
Austin’s most visible role to date was when she became president and chief operating officer of one of Hughes’ divisions — DirecTV — in 2001. She took over when the company was distracted by talks about a possible sale.
But she was credited with acting quickly to boost the provider’s subscriber base by more than 2.6 million new customers. She also renegotiated contracts with distributors and manufacturers and reduced the workforce by 10 percent. She took a tough stance on piracy and successfully worked to reduce the monthly churn of customers who dropped the service after sampling it for a few months. During her tenure, the company’s cash flow improved, profits swung into the black and revenue increased 37 percent. Hence, “Hurricane Roxanne.”
“We had to change, and we had to change fast,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2002.
She left the company a year later as News Corp. took control of DirecTV. Jimmy Schaeffler, chairman and senior analyst for the Carmel Group, said Austin stood out for being a woman in a prominent leadership position in a male-dominated company and industry.
“I would say her crowning achievement was that she left with the respect of pretty much everyone around her,” he said.
If there is one hiccup in Austin’s career, it was probably when she became president and CEO of Move Networks, an online television company, in 2009.
When she took the job, she said she was drawn to it because the company could be a “game changer” in the industry. But she left Move Networks after a year when the company was put up for sale. Its assets were eventually sold to EchoStar.
Austin was brought in too late to help save Move Networks as the behemoth Microsoft and other competitors were coming out with competing software, said Dan Rayburn, a streaming and online video analyst. And the industry later moved away from such proprietary streaming software anyway.
“By the time they brought Roxanne in to run the business — she might tell you she thought she could turn the company around — but she was basically being set up for failure,” he said.
Still, Rayburn said he was impressed by Austin’s grasp of the industry and of the challenges confronting the company. And Austin wasn’t full of hype as can sometimes be the case in that field, he said.
“She was real — she didn’t pull any punches.”
Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113