Has T-Mobile’s foul-mouthed CEO crossed the line?


John Legere, chief executive officer of T-Mobile. (Bloomberg)

Update: A previous version of this article identified T-Mobile as “consistently in third place behind AT&T and Verizon.” The company is actually in fourth place.

Mohandas Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

T-Mobile chief executive John Legere seems stuck in the second part of this aphorism.

Legere, head of the telecommunications company consistently in fourth place behind AT&T and Verizon, offered some semi-printable commentary at a press event on Wednesday.

He introduced T-Mobile’s free test of their network with a iPhone 5S, but it wasn’t the freebie that made headlines.

Legere on his competitors’ failure to offer unlimited data: “They’re greedy bastards.”

On his competitors’ advertisements: “Maps and charts and promises and happy families running through the g–damn store — what the f— do I care about all that?”

On how high charges for data impact music streaming: “Every g–damn note you listen to including the ads we’re going to charge you for.”

On Pharrell: “That guy that sings ‘Happy’ … makes me sick.”

On his competitors’ lack of largesse: “These high and mighty duopolists that are raping you for every penny you have, if they could do something nice for you they would. The f–kers hate you.”

The rape comment in particular did not go over well.

Brendan Greeley of Bloomberg Businessweek:

Legere is playing a game here. Every time he makes a public appearance, he needs to be just offensive enough to get our attention. That means he has to be slightly more offensive than the last time he got our attention. This is a machine with a ratchet, and it has now produced the deeply unfunny word “rape.” Perhaps no word is sacred, but that’s a defense for an act of art — not a corporate communications strategy. John Legere sells phone plans for a living. He’s not Sarah Silverman or Lenny Bruce.

Legere offered a catch-all apology on Thursday:

As rumors swirl that Sprint and T-Mobile will merge to take on AT&T and Verizon, Legere seems to enjoy being the underdog. It’s a status that lets him wear pink shirts under black blazers, call his company “the Uncarrier” and let epithets fly.

Previous examples, courtesy the International Business Times:

One the family plan: “The family plan is one of the biggest evils in this industry…. Lower prices. That is total horses–t.”

On the future of telecommunications: “We are either going to take over this whole industry, or these bastards are going to change, and the whole industry is going to shift. I don’t give a g–damn which. I can’t wait to watch the peckers scream and cry.”

On disruption: “All the disruption in the world doesn’t mean s–t without a network to back it up.”

On the planned Amazon smartphone:

(Disclosure: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

“I don’t walk closely up against the line. I ignore it. It’s who I am,” Legere told Business Insider earlier this year. “I may be a little rough and crude, but I’m much more like my customers and employees than I am an executive. I think employees relate to the way I speak, customers relate to exactly the way I think and talk. And it’s who I am.”

If T-Mobile does merge with Sprint, the resulting conglomerate could have a market cap of about $50 billion.

That’s still only about one-quarter of AT&T or Verizon — but might be big enough to force Legere to clean up his act and spring for a tie.

For those who want more, more vintage Legere:

Justin Moyer is deputy editor of the Morning Mix.
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