True to T-Mobile USA’s new “uncarrier” branding, John Legere is not your average telecom chief executive officer. For one, he tends to do away with niceties.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Legere described AT&T’s wireless network as “crap.” “I get myself in trouble sometimes,” Legere, wearing his favorite magenta T-Mobile T-shirt under a dark gray blazer, said in an interview at the convention.
Legere’s most recent departure from the script came today at a T-Mobile news conference in New York, where he introduced the mobile carrier’s plan to sell Apple’s iPhones for $99.99 with the rest of the cost broken into $20 a month installments. He said the move will both revive the business and shake up the industry.
Something else he said there had caught people’s attention. When asked about the prospects for the pending merger with MetroPCS — a deal vocally opposed by the largest MetroPCS shareholder Paulson & Co, along with P. Schoenfeld Asset Management — Legere was confident but perhaps a little annoyed.
“It will be approved,” he said, “despite the greedy hedge funds that are trying to take a double-dip out of that process.”
Paulson and PSAM argue that the deal heaps too much debt on the combined company. The criticism has been loud enough for some shareholders to possibly reconsider their votes, or for Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s parent company, to get pressured into placing a higher bid.
PSAM told Bloomberg.com that T-Mobile and other companies involved in the proposed transaction are attempting to “deflect focus from important matters at hand,” and that the hedge fund plans to vote against the merger. “PSAM’s objective is to protect the interests of all MetroPCS shareholders,” the firm said in a statement. Paulson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“I get what they are doing,” Legere said. “If you are an investor, and it’s before the vote, you are rattling your saber around to get more money.”
And similarly, if you are the CEO of America’s underdog wireless carrier, you’ve probably decided you need to be a little provocative to get people to pay attention.