Hard Choices: John Legere

In October 2001, I became CEO of Global Crossing (GLBC). The company was in a lot worse shape than I thought. I brought in some consultants, and I remember being angry when one of them suggested that we were headed into bankruptcy.

He was right. In January 2002, I agreed to file. This was in the midst of Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco (TYC). The brand image was horrible. I was getting threats, and my family needed armed security. I thought to myself, "Wait a second. I just got here!"

They wanted Gary Winnick at the congressional hearings. He was the chairman, but I insisted that I go instead. It was important to put a different face on the company. I went to people I trusted and asked their advice. It was clear that I had to stick around. Otherwise, I would be forever associated with all of the negativity.

Nothing prepares you for walking into the Congress and sitting in that chair. They're talking to you from up above. You don't know what anonymous e-mails they're going to read, but your lawyers have handed you the most embarrassing ones you've written, just in case they come up.

The stress is intense. I did falter. I got into a tussle with a congresswoman who was pounding the table and screaming: "Mr. Legere, with that signing bonus, how many jobs could you have saved?" As she screamed at me the third time, I leaned forward and said: "I don't do math in public."

It was supposed to be a joke. I was on the cover of The New York Times with my face bloated and my eyes red. I looked horrible. I was overeating. I was overdrinking. I would put three espressos on ice so I could drink them faster. My brother called to say, "You look like you're going to die." I made a conscious decision: This wouldn't beat me. And we got through it. In December 2003 we emerged from Chapter 11. We were ultimately not found guilty of any wrongdoing. This could have been one of the most successful telecom stories ever. It still could be. And I'm still here.

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