John Legere, the CEO of T-Mobile US, gave a presentation to shareholders of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom—the American wireless provider’s majority owner—this morning in Bonn. It was the first time the US wireless industry’s most unorthodox, foul-mouthed, and all-around entertaining executive addressed his corporate parent’s investor day since 2012, when it was “pretty clear that I didn’t have the foggiest idea what any of the shit I was talking about was,” as Legere recalls it.
His appearance today was a victory lap of sorts, because it turns out Legere’s risky strategy is starting to work.
Here is the presentation in which Legere argues that T-Mobile’s aggressive business model is both sustainable and financially sound. The Q&A begins at around the 42-minute mark.
For years there has been speculation that Deutsche Telekom wants to offload T-Mobile US. Last year it looked like it may have had a buyer, with Sprint (which is backed by Japanese wireless giant SoftBank) wanting to acquire the business. But Sprint walked away (paywall) when regulators signaled they wouldn’t approve a deal. Renegade French telecom Illiad also wanted to buy T-Mobile US but it was rebuffed. Legere’s assessment of Illiad’s approach: “I think they were on drugs.”
There also has been talk of a tie-up with Dish Network, a satellite (and internet) TV company that controls large amounts of valuable wireless airspace, known as spectrum. Legere was surprisingly candid about that. “It’s a conversation that our shareholders should have, but importantly from a position of strength,” he said. “Dish and [T-Mobile], that makes some sense. It makes some sense from a standpoint of integrating that spectrum and capability and deploying it on our network, and then looking at how you merge some of the content distribution and mobile devices and their base of customers as well. So yeah, take a look.”
But for now, Deutsche Telekom is stuck with T-Mobile, and Legere’s stance is that the German telecom should be happy about this. T-Mobile has attracted more customers than its three main rivals have over the past two calendar years. According to Legere, it is now bigger than Sprint. And because of its simple and transparent plans, its customers are actually spending more money with it than ever before.