T-Mobile US Inc. President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert will take over May 1 from John Legere as chief executive officer, with the company promising continuity as the driving force of its recent success departs.
Legere, 61, the shaggy-haired, self-appointed industry rebel who led T-Mobile out of fourth place among wireless carriers to the brink of a merger deal with Sprint Corp., is leaving April 30 at the end of his current contract but will remain a board member. The move is a long-planned transition.
“As the architect of the Uncarrier strategy and the company’s complete transformation, John has put T-Mobile US in an incredibly strong position,” Tim Hoettges, CEO of parent Deutsche Telekom AG and chairman of T-Mobile US, said in a statement. “I have the highest respect for his performance as a manager and as a friend, I am very grateful to him for the time together.”
T-Mobile slid as much as 2.2% to $76.33 in morning New York trading Monday, but recovered to a dip of 0.4% by midday. Since Legere was named CEO on Sept. 19, 2012, T-Mobile has generated a more than fivefold return for investors, including dividends, compared with a 148% gain for the S&P 500 index.
Legere had been rumored to be a candidate for the CEO job at WeWork, but a person familiar with the matter said last week that he was sticking with his current role for now. It’s unclear if the May timing could put him in the running for that job, but Legere said on a conference call Monday that he “was never having discussions” about the WeWork position.
Legere said he is fielding offers but probably won’t decide on his next move until May, adding that his next job won’t be at a direct competitor to T-Mobile.
Sievert, as chief marketing officer and later as operating chief, was the brains behind many of T-Mobile’s popular initiatives. In his seven years at T-Mobile, the 49-year-old executive ran the “uncarrier” campaign, which featured no contracts, unlimited data plans and free taco Tuesdays. The promotions helped attract millions of new subscribers.
“In the months ahead, my focus will be on ensuring a smooth leadership transition and continuing to work closely with the board and Mike to complete the Sprint transaction,” Legere said in the statement.
The $26.5 billion merger with Sprint has won approval from the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission but faces a lawsuit from several state attorneys general, scheduled for trial Dec. 9. Legere said on the call that talks with Sprint about renewing the merger agreement are progressing, and he expects a resolution with the attorneys general before the court date.
A representative for the New York attorney general, who is leading the case, said that no settlement is in the works and that the trial is on track to start Dec. 9 in Manhattan.
With 6.5 million Twitter followers and an audience of millions for his #SlowCookerSunday shows, Legere isn’t your typical corporate cat.
His social-media presence and edgy underdog marketing plan aimed at giants AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., which he dubbed “dumb and dumber,” connected with consumers. Legere has nearly four decades of phone-company experience, including serving as CEO of Global Crossing Ltd. after it emerged from bankruptcy protection.
T-Mobile’s importance for German parent Deutsche Telekom has grown steadily in the past few years. It now accounts for about half of group sales, up from about a third in 2014. The U.S. unit already generates a significant amount of cash, a share that’s poised to increase if the Sprint deal succeeds.
“John taught everyone at T-Mobile that if you listen to customers and empower employees, you can change a culture — and by doing so — change a company and an entire industry,” Hoettges said in the statement.
Bonn-based Deutsche Telekom declined as much as 0.5% in Frankfurt on Monday.
— With assistance from Stefan Nicola and Erik Larson.