T-Mobile’s charismatic and outspoken CEO, John Legere, won’t be around to oversee the aftermath of the momentous merger he has worked years to accomplish, the company said Monday. While the deal to combine with Sprint still faces its final precarious hurdle, Bellevue-based T-Mobile US announced that its CEO since 2012 plans to step down in April.
Legere won’t renew his contract, which ends April 30. Instead, current President Mike Sievert will take over operations after working for the company for seven years.
That still gives Legere a chance to see T-Mobile clinch its $26 billion Sprint buyout, though its conclusion remains uncertain. The Federal Communications Commission approved the merger early this month, but an antitrust lawsuit by a cohort of state attorneys general is still challenging the merger and is scheduled to go to trial in December.
“This news changes nothing in our plans to combine with Sprint and fold them into T-Mobile,” Legere said in an early morning conference call on Monday. “When our merger with Sprint closes, Mike will have the opportunity to supercharge the Uncarrier strategy.”
Legere said the transition was in the works for a couple of years, but the endless delays in the merger made it difficult for T-Mobile to find a window to announce the plan.
“The timing was always expected to be now, but we always expected the new T-Mobile to exist about six months ago,” Legere said. “It’s Mike’s time. We know that. He’s ready.”
Sievert said T-Mobile is prepared for the December antitrust trial, and, in case the merger falls through, has a contingency plan to reach its goals in harnessing and selling widespread 5G before the rest of the sector.
“We would return right away to a strategy that is familiar,” Sievert said. “But our focus is on getting this deal done.”
Under Legere, T-Mobile emerged as one of the fastest-growing carriers in the U.S. Once in the shadow of AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile siphoned customers from larger companies after implementing flexible packages and deals like an added Netflix plan. It grew past Sprint to become the third-largest U.S. carrier.
Legere, who was the Pacific Northwest’s highest-paid public company chief last year, said he is not going to sit back and relax.
“I’m not retiring,” Legere said. “And I’m already getting a tremendous amount of input of companies that could use cultural transformation, leadership and things that we’ve demonstrated here.”
Last week, CNBC broke rumors that Legere was in talks to lead WeWork, the beleaguered co-working office company. T-Mobile and Legere remained silent then, but Legere denied the talks Monday.
“I was never having discussions to run WeWork,” Legere said. “Because we had this announcement pending, I couldn’t say that … but it did create a weird awkward period of time.”
T-Mobile says the merger would allow it to unleash widespread, accessible 5G and close the urban-rural digital divide, bringing a new set of rural customers to T-Mobile.
If it combines with Sprint, T-Mobile would have more than 130 million customers, according to recent quarterly reports. That would make T-Mobile the second-largest carrier in the U.S.
“This will be the start of T-Mobile’s next chapter,” Legere said.