T-Mobile CEO Legere Says He's Handing Over 'The Magenta CEO Reigns'

John Legere, who brought panache, brashness and Un-conventional color to the Telecom Wars, will be transferring leadership of T-Mobile to his protégé, Mike Sievert, over the next few months.

“!! I’ve got some important news! On May 1, I’ll be handing the magenta CEO reigns over to @SievertMike  as my successor. This move has been under development for a long time…,” Legere unexpectedly tweeted yesterday morning. (Presumably, the reins go with the transfer.)

T-Mobile followed up  with a press release, leading with the statement that “Sievert is committed to the successful Un-carrier strategy, demonstrating that T-Mobile will remain a disruptive force in U.S. wireless marketplace to benefit consumers.” 



It also points out that Legere “will focus on a smooth leadership transition and closing the Sprint acquisition.” 

That on-off-on-off-on $26 billion merger was approved  by the Federal Communications Commission two weeks ago, but is facing a lawsuit by a coalition of states attorneys general that will go to trial next month.

“Mr. Sievert had been waiting in the wings. A provision in his employment agreement guaranteed that he would be paid as much as $58 million if there was a change in leadership at T-Mobile and the job did not go to him,” Edmund Lee observes  for The New York Times.

“Legere’s absence … will be noticed, not least because he has made himself so noticeable,” writes  Nat Ives for The Wall Street Journal.

“Mr. Legere stands out from other CEOs. He sports long hair, leather jackets and T-shirts in T-Mobile magenta. He riddles rivals with public barbs on Twitter, including calling AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. ‘dumb and dumber.’ He hosts an exuberant cooking show shot as a vertical for Facebook called ‘Slow Cooker Sunday,’ which attracts millions of views.

“He seeks attention, in short, and he gets it,” Ives observes.

“Legere, who became CEO in September 2012, revived a struggling company and led the ‘Un-carrier’  strategy that pitched T-Mobile as a customer-friendly alternative to the AT&T/Verizon duopoly. T-Mobile's Un-carrier moves changed some of the punitive  business practices that mobile carriers routinely inflicted on customers,” Jon Brodkin writes for Ars Technica.

“But Legere's T-Mobile also helped lead the way in making throttling of streaming video a standard industry practice. T-Mobile was punished by the federal government in 2016 for failing to adequately disclose speed and data restrictions on its ‘unlimited data’ plans, and like other carriers, it sold its customers’ real-time location data to third parties. Legere often offered better deals than competitors, but U.S. wireless prices still rank among the most expensive in the world,” Brodkin continues.

“T-Mobile’s reputation as a consumer ally under Legere was always a bit skin deep,” posits Vice’s Karl Bode.
“Under Legere, T-Mobile has been a notorious union buster, creating illegal fake unions  in the hopes that employees wouldn’t join a real one. The company also supported  the repeal of net neutrality and broadband privacy rulesattacked groups like the EFF, and cozied up to the Trump administration to gain approval for its unpopular, competition eroding merger with Sprint,” Bode writes.

Business Insider’s Paige Leskin traces Legere’s more conventional, cost-cutting career in the telecom business from the day the high school track star discovered how little gym teachers made. He instead pursued a bachelor’s degree in business administration from University of Massachusetts Amherst, then went on to get a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a business degree from Fairleigh Dickinson.

After starting out in 1980 at the now defunct New England Telephone, he spent 15 years at AT&T before joining Dell in 1988. He was named CEO of telecom provider Asia Global Crossing in 2000.

Legere “was accused of gender discrimination as head of the Asia unit. He was also accused of accepting a hefty severance package when be become the parent company’s CEO,” Leskin tells us. But “under Legere, the company went from filing for bankruptcy protection in 2002 to being sold for $1.9 billion in 2011.”

Legere was named CEO of T-Mobile USA, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, in September 2012.

Yesterday’s “surprise move comes as speculation swirls about the possibility that Legere was a leading contender to become the next CEO of WeWork -- although Legere shot down reports that he was looking to take that job,” Paul R. La Monica reports for CNN Business.

“Legere said during a conference call with analysts Monday that he never was having discussions with WeWork, adding that rumors about him leaving made things ‘awkward’ since he was already in the process of hashing out a T-Mobile succession plan,” La Monica adds.

One thing that seems certain. Legere, a 61-year-old “marathon-running bachelor,” is unlikely to just jog off into the sunset.

“‘I’m outspoken and loud -- and yes, sometimes I call out the other guys and point out their bad behavior,’ Mr. Legere says,” Sam Walker wrote in a positive profile in The Wall Street Journal two months ago. “Everything I do is about one thing: inspiring people to be better and constantly pushing for innovation. It’s been that way from day one, and I won’t change.” 

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