T-Mobile’s iconic CEO John Legere will leave the company when his contract expires on April 30, 2020, the cellular carrier announced today, and be replaced by COO Mike Sievert on May 1. The carrier says that the transition has been planned, and that Sievert will continue Legere’s “Un-carrier” strategy, which has been highly successful in establishing the company as a true competitor to larger cellular carriers Verizon and AT&T.
“John Legere has had an enormously successful run as CEO,” said T-Mobile US chairman of the board Tim Höttges. “As the architect of the Un-carrier strategy and the company’s complete transformation, John has put T-Mobile US in an incredibly strong position. I have the highest respect for his performance as a manager and as a friend, I am very grateful to him for the time together… The Board is pleased that John will support this leadership transition while focusing on closing our pending acquisition of Sprint.”
The news unexpectedly comes in the middle of T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint, a process that has dragged out over the past year, and in the wake of rumors — since denied — that Legere was considering taking the reins at troubled co-working company WeWork. Legere has become known at T-Mobile for his brash, aggressive style, including his willingness to directly call out rivals for behaviors that weren’t in customers’ best interests, as well as his ability to generate both attention and new sign-ups using noteworthy public announcements.
While less well-known than Legere, Sievert has served as chief marketing officer and later chief operating officer at T-Mobile over the past seven years. Today’s announcement credits him with leading “the design and execution of the 16 Un-carrier ‘moves’ that have defined the company and established T-Mobile as the customer satisfaction leader and most-loved brand in the industry,” as well as participating in the two-year merger planning and approval process with Sprint.
“I hired Mike in 2012 and I have great confidence in him,” Legere said. “I have mentored him as he took on increasingly broad responsibilities, and he is absolutely the right choice as T-Mobile’s next CEO. Mike is well prepared to lead T-Mobile into the future. He has a deep understanding of where T-Mobile has been and where it needs to go to remain the most innovative company in the industry.”
Given Legere’s outsized presence and ongoing role as the face of the Un-carrier initiative, which saw the company make substantial commitments to improving customer service, freedom from contracts, and device roaming performance, the two key questions are how Sievert will continue the Un-carrier legacy, and handle the still unfinished Sprint merger. Sievert says that the company’s Un-carrier culture “will not change.”
“Going forward,” said Sievert, “my mission is to build on T-Mobile’s industry-leading reputation for empowering employees to deliver an outstanding customer experience and to position T-Mobile not only as the leading mobile carrier, but as one of the most admired companies in America.”
In a conference call explaining the transition, T-Mobile portrayed itself as having led the industry with moves that other carriers have followed, including the bundling of “Netflix On Us” over-the-top video streaming services with cellular service, and said that the company will continue to be innovative under Sievert. In response to a question about his future, Legere jokingly noted that while the company’s investor calls will become boring after he leaves, he will remain involved as a T-Mobile board member, and continue to be active on social media.