John Legere, the “hip” CEO of T-Mobile, the allegedly pro-consumer telecom “un-company” that markets heavily to millennials, repeatedly trashed Donald Trump on Twitter last year but quickly began sucking up to him ever since he won November’s election.
The T-Mobile CEO has nearly 4 million followers on Twitter — far more than most tech industry corporate icons and twice as many as Jeff Bezos — and even has his own Twitter emoji. During the campaign he and Trump had a few “epic” Twitter wars — Donald even derided the CEO’s embarrassing hairstyle, which arguably makes Trump’s combover look positively stylish — and Legere retorted that Trump would make a terrible president.
When Trump was bashing immigrants, Legere said T-Mobile would allow them to phone home to Mexico (and elsewhere) without roaming charges. So when Trump won in November, one website predicted that the bad blood between Trump and the company would hurt T-Mobile.
But right after the results, Legere moved to fix things up with Trump. He immediately congratulated him on his victory and said, “Let’s see what an out-of-the-box, non-typical, non-politician can do for America.”
By January, Legere was in full ass-kissing mode, saying he admired the “reach and the breadth” of what Trump is able to do on social media. As to Trump’s Twitter skills, he said, “This guy’s got game…It’s a whole different scale.”
Meanwhile, the outspoken and once fearless Legere was silent on Trump’s original immigration order announced back in Jaunary — unlike Google, Starbucks, Amazon, Netflix, Lyft and most tech companies, who denounced it. “We’re not talking about this issue right now,” a T-Mobile spokeswoman said at the time. Meanwhile, Legere was tweeting about penguins, minions and a toothy fish, according to this excellent story in GeekWire.
Legere’s political play is pretty obvious: He and his firm are looking to cash in on Trump’s fervor for deregulatory policies. Earlier this year he said T-Mobile was giddy about potential regulatory changes under Trump and that the environment was “conducive to us significantly expanding our business.” During the company’s earnings call a few weeks ago, he reiterated his rosy vision for T-Mobile under the Trump Administration and pro-industry FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.
There’s also early talk of a T-Mobile-Sprint merger, a step which undoubtedly would be bad for consumers and which would need FCC approval. Under Obama, a few T-Mobile mergers were in the works but were blocked. Furthermore, T-Mobile has a number of potential problems with its consumer base, which pays a high price for marginal service. The last thing it wants is the FCC snooping around its books. (Disclosure: I have T-Mobile and frequently can’t get clear reception in parts of Washington, including, at times, in my own home.)
Some other telcom firms are also currying favor with Trump for the same political reasons, but Legere carefully brands himself and his company as being daring and progressive, and a champion of millennials. So this is the worst sort of corporate hypocrisy, and designed to win him favor with a president who he hopes will allow him to ratchet up the the financial pillaging of his already beleaguered customer base.