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T-Mobile CEO John Legere Unleashed

Count the F-bombs.

Asa Mathat

T-Mobile chief executive John Legere has a way with words — mostly provocative, combative and occasionally profane ones, but never boring.

The CEO of the nation’s fourth-largest wireless carrier joined Re/code’s Ina Fried on stage on Monday at the inaugural Code/Mobile conference Monday just moments after the company reported record subscriber gains but a surprising net loss in its latest quarterly earnings — and before a conference call with analysts on Tuesday.

Legere’s take-no-prisoners style, a signature approach in the company’s surprising turn-around, was on full display.

“We’re kicking the shit out of the industry,” he said on stage.

Since he took over as chief executive two years ago, T-Mobile has added 20 million subscribers — a gain of 58 percent since the end of 2012. The “un-carrier” surpassed the 50-million-customer milestone in its June quarter, thanks in part to Legere’s aggressive pricing strategies. It now serves 53 million customers.

With deals like a shared pricing plan in which a family of four would pay $100 a month for service, T-Mobile undercut rivals in a bid to roll up subscribers.

Legere made clear his attack on the what he labeled an “inept” wireless industry is far from over. While consistently bashing AT&T and Verizon Wireless, Legere’s comments on Sprint were more mixed and was at times praising new CEO Marcelo Claure.

Legere also faced questions about how T-Mobile — which is dwarfed in size, revenue and profits by giants Verizon Wireless and AT&T — can remain competitive in the long term. It will need to raise capital to bid against these monied players for additional wireless spectrum that will be auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission.

And while acknowledging T-Mobile’s customer gains has come at a high cost — including a surprise loss in the just passed quarter — Legere maintained that continued strong growth was sustainable for the foreseeable future.

One solution to T-Mobile’s growing pains — a possible merger with third-place carrier Sprint — was scuttled amid intense opposition from federal regulators. T-Mobile and its majority holder, Deutsche Telekom, also rejected a bid from French carrier Iliad.

Asked if T-Mobile would need to combine with a rival, he said he was plotting two courses for the company — one that assumes independence and the other that would include a deal that would be palatable to its corporate owners and U.S. regulators.

Whether T-Mobile finds a partner or not, Legere said he expects a competitive playing field that includes more than just the current four major carriers.

Or, as Legere put it another way: “You’ve got a lot of shit going on.”

Update: Recasts with quotes and event coverage.

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