Pretty in Pink: T-Mobile Chief Is the Colorful Outlier of Wireless

Pretty in Pink: T-Mobile Chief Is the Colorful Outlier of Wireless

It’s a daring transfer, and one which illustrates Mr. Legere’s willingness to disrupt the establishment, even when he seems to have the weaker hand.

“He wants to take on the titans of AT&T and Verizon,” mentioned Steve Grasso, director of institutional gross sales at Stuart Frankel and a market analyst for CNBC, who is aware of Mr. Legere socially. “He’s a pit bull.”

The mixture of T-Mobile and Sprint has been years in the making, as each firms have sought so as to add scale and compete with their bigger rivals. Yet the final time the firms formally tried a deal, in 2014, it was Sprint that was planning to amass T-Mobile.

That deal fell aside in the face of regulatory scrutiny. And since then, Mr. Legere has managed to construct T-Mobile’s enterprise by flouting conference. Under his management, T-Mobile started providing limitless information, diminished costs and fewer stringent contract commitments.

When Mr. Legere took over in 2012, he was a really completely different govt, and T-Mobile was a really completely different firm.


Mr. Legere, left, has for years favored T-Mobile’s pink in his wardrobe. The Sprint chief govt Marcelo Claure added Sprint’s yellow to his outfit after their two firms introduced an settlement to mix.

Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

T-Mobile was reeling from a failed try to promote itself to AT&T and struggling to tell apart itself from different low value carriers like Sprint and Metro PCS. Mr. Legere, who spent 20 years working at AT&T, was a traditional, if formidable, telecommunications govt.

“He was a finance guy,” mentioned Dan Hesse, the former chief govt of Sprint, who was a mentor of Mr. Legere’s at AT&T. “The first time I saw John after he was named C.E.O. of T-Mobile, he was there in his suit.”

That quickly modified. In 2013, Mr. Legere was onstage at an occasion in Las Vegas with Joe Torre, the former supervisor of the Yankees, selling a partnership between T-Mobile and Major League Baseball.

When reporters requested him about the state of the wi-fi business, he responded with a tirade about how badly prospects had been mistreated, and what he deliberate to do otherwise.

“It hit a chord,’’ he told Business Insider. “It was an motion assertion for me — I’m certain it sounded a bit smug — that I used to be going to repair this business. From then on, I began to be the model.”

Soon, Mr. Legere, now 59, had a complete new look. He grew his hair to his shoulders. He wore firm T-shirts wherever he went. He pulled on customized pink Converse sneakers emblazoned with the T-Mobile brand. Before lengthy, the finance man appeared extra like an growing older rock star.

At the identical time, Mr. Legere embraced social media as a device to advertise himself and needle his adversaries. On Facebook, he began a cooking show, “Slow Cooker Sunday.” On YouTube, he known as AT&T and Verizon “dumb and dumber.”

And on Twitter, he started hurling insults at rivals and tangling with rival C.E.O.s — together with Sprint’s Marcelo Claure.

Twitter customers ate it up, and Mr. Legere now has greater than 5.6 million followers. Twitter even designed him a custom emoji.

Offline, Mr. Legere additionally cultivated an eccentric picture. He is an everyday customer to T-Mobile shops and name facilities, the place he delivers boisterous pep talks. At firm conferences, he provides staff $100 if they’ll ask him a query in the type of a track. And in the workplace, he’s fond of driving round on a Segway.


Mr. Legere taking a selfie earlier than a T-Mobile occasion in Los Angeles in 2015. He has cultivated an eccentric picture with boisterous pep talks to staff and the look of an growing older rock star.

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

“John has built a franchise around T-Mobile, which is in part his own,” mentioned Stephen Scherr, head of the shopper and business banking division at Goldman Sachs, who has labored with Mr. Legere for greater than a decade.

But Mr. Legere has paired showmanship with outcomes. During his tenure, T-Mobile has added subscribers and elevated revenues and earnings. “He’s also a great operator,” Mr. Scherr mentioned. “He runs a really good business.”

If Mr. Legere succeeds in lastly becoming a member of T-Mobile and Sprint, the man who wished to come back off as the consummate outsider can have pulled off the final insider transfer: a mega-merger to mix two rival firms and seize a better share of a altering business.

Regulators are sure to take a close look at the proposed combination, and there’s a probability they might block the deal. However, there may be purpose to consider that they might view the union extra favorably than they did 4 years in the past.

Under President Trump, antitrust enforcement has turn into unpredictable. The Justice Department has mounted a court docket combat in opposition to the proposed mixture of AT&T and Time Warner, which don’t straight compete with each other. At the identical time, there seems to be little resistance to the proposed acquisition of 21st Century Fox belongings by Disney, a deal which would scale back competitors in the movie and tv business.

Mr. Legere, who’s delicate to public perceptions, appears to have anticipated this second. In January 2017, after Mr. Trump’s election however earlier than his inauguration, Mr. Legere was requested about his view of the regulatory atmosphere beneath the Trump administration.

“It’s hard not to be excited,’’ he said, about regulatory views that would be “conducive to us significantly expanding our business.”

Mr. Legere added that he hoped to satisfy Mr. Trump, and supplied roundabout reward for the president’s famously antagonistic strategy to social media, saying that Mr. Trump had changed him as one of the “kings of mean on Twitter.”

Mr. Legere knew from had firsthand expertise. In 2015, after Mr. Trump insulted the U.F.C. fighter Ronda Rousey on Twitter, Mr. Legere got here to her protection. In the ensuing change, Mr. Legere mentioned Mr. Trump wasn’t presidential materials.

“I am an undecided Republican,” Mr. Legere wrote. “Well not totally undecided, I know what I don’t want :)”

But plainly the prospect of a multibillion deal can heal previous wounds.

Mr. Legere has since deleted that tweet about the president. And on Sunday, Mr. Legere was making the rounds with Mr. Claure of Sprint, one other previous social media sparring associate, to speak up their alliance.

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