As fears grow that T-Mobile US Inc.’s Sprint Corp. merger will be quashed by regulators, Chief Executive Officer John Legere is leading a personal crusade to rescue the deal.
The CEO, known for his straggly hair, magenta T-shirts and Twitter antics, has made frequent trips to Washington since the proposed combination was announced in April of 2018. And he’s used his social media presence to make his case. In the latest volley, Legere disputed a Wall Street Journal story that said Justice Department staffers voiced doubts about the transaction being approved in its current form.
“The premise of this story,” he tweeted to his 6.2 million followers, “is simply untrue.” The Journal’s story sent shares of both carriers tumbling as investors fretted that the merger will be scuttled. Sprint plunged 13 percent to $5.25 and T-Mobile fell as much as 6.9 percent to $69.
Deutsche Telekom AG, the German company that controls T-Mobile, fell as much as 2.4 percent in Frankfurt on Wednesday.
The combination would unite the third- and fourth-largest US wireless carriers, sparking fears about the effect on competition. Legere has argued that a merged company would be a stronger rival to Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., the nation’s top providers. In online videos, he pitches the benefits of a fifth-generation network — built together with Sprint — saying it could lay the groundwork for real-time translators and even 5G ski goggles.
All that effort may be for naught. Staff attorneys at the Justice Department are leaning against the deal and outlined their concerns to company officials at a meeting in recent weeks, according to three people familiar with the discussions. A final decision hasn’t been made.