T-Mobile was in the news again Thursday, with rumors that French telecommunications giant Iliad planned to make another offer to acquire the fourth largest carrier in the U.S. But T-Mobile CEO John Legere downplayed the possibility, making light of the fact that the board seriously needs to consider every offer that comes across the table.
Speaking at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle, Legere referred to Iliad Chief Strategy Officer and majority shareholder Xavier Niel as “that porn guy,” referring to the sex-oriented chat site that he owned in the 1990s. He joked given all of the acquisition rumors about Iliad that he planned to start pronouncing his name with a French twist (“leg-aire”), rather than the American style. (He pronounces his name as “led-ger”.)
“I can tell you everything you need to know about Iliad,” said Legere. “The owner is wealthy, he’s got long hair, he made his money in porn and his wife is the heir to Louis Vuitton money. I mean, shit, what else do you need to know?”
He then added: “I don’t know what else they do.”
“This is someone who is trying to raise money because he’s fascinated with T-Mobile,” said Legere of Iliad’s Neil.
“Here’s the plug line: I have a fiduciary obligation to shareholders to look at any and all offers that come into the company. Bullshit. So, we will see,” he said.
Legere did take a moment to call out the current state of reporting on a potential T-Mobile acquisition, saying that discussions of the Iliad deal involved “rumors about rumors.” But Legere also made clear that he wasn’t interested in rushing into an acquisition, and that he wanted to focus as much as possible on the company’s continued growth and success.
“My strategy has been to continue to grow, and focus on what we’re doing,” said Legere, who touched on a variety of his during his 45-minute talk at the Summit. “I don’t want my employees getting their heads on sideways – they still have PTSD from when AT&T tried to buy us.”
Given the growth at T-Mobile in recent months, Legere said that other potential offers will likely arrive. He said he’s got a long list of companies that “would salivate” to do something with T-Mobile.
“Most of the mergers in the industry have been about somebody’s that totally dead and somebody comes in and buys them for synergy and takes their spectrum,” he said. “What’s happening now with T-Mobile, it’s a brand. There is something very strong and valuable going on.”
Iliad is just one potential bidder. “There will be more,” said Legere, adding that he thinks the company could be successful either as part of an acquisition or as a standalone.
Even so, the T-Mobile CEO said that the carrier would have an easier time working at scale if the company combined with another firm.
“The logic of consolidation makes huge sense,” Legere said when asked if he regretted the fact that T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint fell apart earlier this year. “I think the Chairman of the FCC made clear in his victory lap that (it won’t happen) right now.”
Overall, Legere isn’t out actively seeking an acquisition, but said that the company has a rising brand and increasing value that makes it an attractive pick for potential buyers. And perhaps, the fact that the company isn’t “waving a flag” and seeking to get acquired will make it more interesting to potential suitors.
Furthermore, Legere is having so much fun at the helm of T-Mobile and meeting with so much success, that the brash-talking Massachusetts native and competitive marathon runner says he controls the company’s destiny.
“We went public at $15 a share and we’re trading at around $30. So I can do whatever the fuck I want,” he said.