T-Mobile’s rebel CEO just backed down in the face of… Blackberry

John Legere, hubris intact.
John Legere, hubris intact.
Image: AP Images/Jeff Bottari
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T-Mobile’s CEO, John Legere, has been riding a seemingly unstoppable wave of trash-talking hubris in his quest to reshape America’s telecom landscape. But now he has bowed to criticism from a less-than-formidable foe: BlackBerry.

John Chen, the veteran turnaround specialist brought in to BlackBerry to revive the ailing Canadian smartphone maker, didn’t take kindly this week to news that T-Mobile had been specifically targeting BlackBerry users on its network, offering them free upgrades to Apple’s iPhone 5 handset. In a blog post railing against the carrier’s “anti-BlackBerry” campaign, he said he was “outraged” at T-Mobile’s “clearly inappropriate and ill-conceived marketing promotion.”

This put Legere, who has been throwing his fair share of hand grenades this year, in an awkward position. The company’s response to the anger vented on social media by devoted BlackBerry users (yes they still exist) was remarkably swift.

Legere has taunted America’s biggest wireless carrier, Verizon, and third-placed rival Sprint this year. But he has focused most of his histrionics at AT&T, the very company that has indirectly underpinned T-Mobile’s recent resurgence. (When AT&Ts takeover bid for the fourth-ranked carrier collapsed in late 2011, it was forced to pay T-Mobile $6 billion in cash and spectrum fees).  Legere has called out his counterpart at AT&T directly on Twitter and even gatecrashed the company’s event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Since Legere started doing it, CEOs trash-talking each other in public is now becoming a thing in corporate America ( Netflix CEO Reed Hastings basically called his counterpart at HBO his “bitch” in the company’s last earnings call). He may not, however, have expected to find himself on the receiving end of it.