You know the honeymoon is over in any relationship when the taunts begin. You know it’s really over when those taunts are made public on Twitter.
If there was ever any question whether T-Mobile’s brash CEO John Legere was getting over Sprint, that ended when he Tweeted, “If you needed just one more reason to leave Sprint and join T Mobile….Now you might just have it….total Chaos at Sprint! #sprintlikehell“
That was shortly after the news hit the wires that Sprint was dropping its bid to acquire T-Mobile after the Federal Communication Commission made it clear that there was no chance a deal would ever be approved. Legere’s taunts of Sprint and its CEO continued in rapid succession as he used them as an excuse to direct sales pitches to Sprint customers. “Is Sprint a melting ice cube?….looks like it to me….join the cool brand NOW!” Legere Tweeted a few minutes later.
The jeers just kept on coming, apparently the result of pent-up Twitter comments that had been on hold while Sprint was trying to buy T-Mobile. Legere isn’t talking so far, but there’s at least some indication that T-Mobile’s CEO was hoping to be put in charge of the combined company and made reference several times to taking his “UnCarrier” concept to a bigger platform.
But of course the FCC derailed that when it turned thumbs down on a plan by Sprint and T-Mobile to submit joint bids for unused television spectrum at a 2015 auction. A blog posting on the official FCC blog made it clear that it wouldn’t allow such cooperation between two large bidders.
Perhaps because of plans were in the works, Legere was uncharacteristically quiet about Sprint since the beginning of 2014, despite the fact that the failing carrier provided a wealth of potential material. Legere did not spare his other competitors, rarely passing up an opportunity to tweak Verizon or AT&T. Then the dam burst.
First it was Sprint’s friends and family plan, which the company refers to using the word “Framily.” Legere suggested that a “Framily Feud” had just erupted and it was time to leave Sprint. That spirit continued. “Looks like @sprint has a new #framily member… and he’s got a lot of framily therapy to do, asap. #justsayin,” Legere Tweeted.
Meanwhile, apparently Legere was annoyed that Sprint’s new CEO Marcelo Claure had mispronounced his name, and so he let Claure have it. “Pro-tip for @marceloclaure, tell people how to pronounce your name now… #leegair!?”
All of this happened in the space of a couple of hours, at which point Legere moved on to his prediction that T-Mobile would pass Sprint as the third largest carrier in the U.S. by the end of 2014. “I predict the #uncarrier will overtake @Sprint in total customers by the end of the year! There, I said it!” Legere said in his next Tweet.
T-Mobile’s Legere Taunts Former Suitor Sprint Via Twitter Posts
For his part, Sprint’s Claure hasn’t done much at all on Twitter, except to start following T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s Twitter feeds, which he did a week before he was named as the new CEO of Sprint. Clearly Claure knew he was moving to Sprint before the announcement. Otherwise, his Twitter activity is almost entirely about his soccer team.
While Legere’s Twitter activity slowed some over the next few days, that’s not to suggest that he’s given up on needling Sprint, or the rest of the industry for that matter. His Twitter feed continued to predict Sprint’s demise while picking on other industry practices such as charging for going over the data limit on an account.
But Legere wasn’t done with Sprint. His taunts about T-Mobile taking over Sprint’s third-place spot continued for the rest of the week.
Then he started needling Sprint directly again, this time suggesting ways in which Sprint could raise some money just in case SoftBank didn’t have enough. “Think @Sprint may need to turn to Kickstarter if they don’t make something happen for their customers soon!”
While following John Legere on Twitter can be entertaining, it’s also instructive. To a considerable extent, Legere’s personality is also the personality of his company. He comes across as brash, sometimes profane, and always pushy, but in a good way as long as you’re not the competition. His whole UnCarrier schtick depends on it, and so far it’s working.
After all, T-Mobile, brash, profane or not, has been growing by a million subscribers a quarter recently. Sprint is shrinking by a 250,000 per quarter. While you can’t ascribe those differences to a Twitter feed, it’s clear that Legere’s out-of-the-box thinking, which he expresses through Twitter, plays a major role.
How will Sprint’s Claure stack up against Legere? That’s hard to say, but we may find out more at his first company-wide meeting with employees, which is scheduled for Aug. 14. Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son has tasked Claure with turning Sprint around, with his first effort to cut costs at Sprint, according to reports in Bloomberg.
Unfortunately, that tasking coupled with Claure’s reported remarks about Sprint being labor intensive suggest that his first priority may well be a broad program of layoffs.
It’s hard to see how Sprint is going to turn its business around quickly on the backs of a workforce that’s about to suffer a massive layoff, while being led by a CEO that’s never run a wireless company of any sort before, but instead was the founder of Brightstar, which is part of the mobile supply chain as a device distributor. He may eventually pull it off, but it’s not likely to happen for a long while after Legere’s prediction that Sprint will drop to the number 4 U.S. wireless carrier comes to pass.