Will T-Mobile’s CEO call Kansas City home after Sprint merger? It could happen

Meet T-Mobile’s popular and profane CEO John Legere

Four years ago, when Sprint tried to buy T-Mobile, analysts expected T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere would run the merged companies. Now that T-Mobile’s buying Sprint, Legere’s back on Sprinters' horizon.
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Four years ago, when Sprint tried to buy T-Mobile, analysts expected T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere would run the merged companies. Now that T-Mobile’s buying Sprint, Legere’s back on Sprinters' horizon.

Would T-Mobile CEO John Legere really call the Kansas City area home if federal officials approve a merger with Sprint?

Legere raised the topic himself early this month during a 90-minute session with Sprint employees at the Overland Park company’s headquarters campus.

He was responding to a question about Sprint employees relocating to T-Mobile’s headquarters in Bellevue, Wash. The Seattle suburb is seen as a more expensive place to live.

“I have to tell you: I definitely have a lot of people in Bellevue that would love to move to Kansas City. Right?” Legere said, according to a transcript the companies submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. “I’m one of them that would love to live here instead of Bellevue. It rains every day.”

The comment sparked media attention in Seattle and in the tech world.

Geekwire said Legere “played to the Sprint crowd” and then it noted that an online search found Overland Park and Bellevue get the same amount of rain on average each year. To Legere’s point, Geekwire’s source says Overland Park enjoys 58 more sunny days than Bellevue does on average each year.

Legere’s climatological arguments aside, his comment failed to convince everyone that he’d relocate to the Kansas City area if the merger with Sprint is approved.

“Why would he want to move there? He’s a New Yorker,” said Berge Ayvazian, a consultant at Wireless 20/20 in the Boston area.

Legere makes no secret of his fondness for New York.

Followers of Legere’s RunScope sessions see him jogging in New York’s Central Park among other locations. Legere told his Instagram followers in September that he enjoys running in Hong Kong and London but that Central Park is always his “fall back” running spot.

As for calling Kansas City or Bellevue home, Legere really doesn’t have to choose. For someone of Legere’s largess, home is a plural concept rather than a singular one.

In 2017, Business Insider did an inside look at Legere’s life and noted that he lives on both coasts.

Legere has home bases on both sides of the country: in Washington, near T-Mobile’s Bellevue headquarters, and in New York City,” the report said about one photo it posted.

Geekwire, however, reported in February that Legere listed his “deluxe penthouse in the sky over New York City’s Central Park West” for sale at $22 million.

Consider Legere’s widely viewed Slow Cooker Sunday sessions on Facebook. Legere usually explains that he’s excited to invite viewers into his home.

Sometimes, that home is in Bellevue.

Other times, it is somewhere in Florida.

And sometimes it is in another location Legere calls “my home” but has not said where it is, at least not in the sessions reviewed for this report.

Even Legere made reference to his multiple homes during an Aug. 26 session of Slow Cooker Sunday. He was in Bellevue but said this:

“Sunday is the day I get to invite you all into my home — whichever home I happen to be in — and cook.”

Sprint employees know about multiple homes from their previous CEO Marcelo Claure, who took the stage for the headquarters visit by Legere.

Claure moved his family to the Kansas City area after becoming Sprint’s chief in 2014. He even welcomed a daughter into the world here.

But Claure kept his house in Miami, and the Miami Herald recently reported that he is moving back for the launch of his Major League Soccer team.

Legere’s “live in Kansas City” comment led Claure to jokingly acknowledge his own ties to Kansas City have faded somewhat.

“I’ve been looking to sell my house, John, so...” Claure said, before employees’ laughter and applause interrupted the thought, according to the transcript.

Legere’s Kansas City comment may simply have been a spur of the moment thought that played to the audience, said Bill White, a former Sprint communications chief.

White, who reviewed the transcript, said he was struck by a sense of deja vu. He’d been Sprint’s communications officer during its 2005 merger with Nextel.

“The language is almost the same as when Sprint and Nextel merged together,” White said. “It’s what you would say when you want a transaction to be completed and to have a motivated workforce.”

White noted both transactions included talk of two headquarters. In the Nextel merger, Nextel’s home in Reston, Va., was designated the headquarters and Overland Park the operations headquarters.

Jeffrey Moore lived through the Sprint-Nextel merger doing “competitive intelligence” work for Sprint. He said Reston’s designation didn’t stick.

“That didn’t last very long. The power center was Overland Park and Reston essentially went away,” said Moore, who tracks the wireless industry through Wave7 Research.

Moore and White both said Sprint employees can be encouraged by the effort T-Mobile executives are making to reassure them that they have a future. The alternative could have been to shut them out completely.

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