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Originally published March 24, 2013 at 8:00 PM | Page modified March 24, 2013 at 9:58 PM

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T-Mobile stays silent as layoff buzz gets louder

Sources say hundreds of well-paying jobs at the Belleveue headquarters are being cut this month, but the company won’t acknowledge a thing.

Seattle Times technology columnist

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When T-Mobile announced last fall that it was merging with MetroPCS, it looked like a great deal for the Puget Sound region.

The merger — which may be completed in the next month — will create the fourth-largest public company in the area, a $25 billion giant larger than Starbucks or Nordstrom.

That’s a far better outcome than having T-Mobile swallowed up by AT&T, which tried to acquire the company. That deal, opposed by federal regulators, would probably have gutted T-Mobile’s Bellevue headquarters.

Yet it’s not all rainbows and unicorns.

Recent moves by T-Mobile are making me wonder what sort of neighbor we’re getting in Factoria.

Secretive layoffs are the biggest concern. My sources tell me that hundreds of well-paying headquarters jobs are being cut this month, but the company won’t acknowledge a thing.

No doubt T-Mobile is busy. It’s in the final stages of an enormous merger while simultaneously upgrading its network to 4G LTE technology, which debuts this week.

But how hard can it be to let your neighbors know when something big is happening?

Boeing also has its hands full, redesigning batteries and getting its flagship 787 back in the air. But it found time Friday to give the region a heads-up that it’s cutting at least 800 jobs this year, with up to 2,000 positions potentially going away because of attrition and other moves.

Job losses are to be expected in big corporate mergers, so it’s not surprising that T-Mobile has been trimming at headquarters before the deal is finalized.

Last year, T-Mobile cut about 5,000 jobs across the country — mostly at call centers that were consolidated — as the company reorganized, adjusted to slower growth and invested in costly network upgrades.

After it disclosed those layoffs, its former chief executive went on the record to make it clear the company was still committed to growing its workforce in the Seattle area.

This time around there’s just silence. T-Mobile appears to be trimming costs ahead of being a public company, when its books will be open and scrutinized by investors.

Yet the company continues issuing “no comments” to job-cut questions, even as one of its executives saying “no comment” to the media was laid off and shown the door.

The only official glimpse of what’s going on is buried in a presentation by T-Mobile and MetroPCS executives pitching the merger. The presentation, which was disclosed by MetroPCS in January, includes a slide discussing T-Mobile’s “lean and simple business model” and quantifying its cost-cutting.

Last year, T-Mobile’s “reinvent” strategy saved $900 million, of which $300 million was reinvested. That tracks with comments that it was cutting nationally but still growing here.

This year’s “reinvent savings” are expected to be about $500 million, according to the slide, followed by $350 million more in 2013 and $100 million in 2015.

Also listed are $1 billion in savings expected from the merger with MetroPCS, including “savings from realizing efficiencies in common support functions.”

It doesn’t look like there will be many voices in the boardroom with perspective on how this will play out in the Puget Sound region.

Last Tuesday, T-Mobile and MetroPCS disclosed names of directors who will oversee the combined company. The only one from the Northwest is T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere, who moved into a Bellevue apartment after he took the job in September.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard from a number of current and former employees that layoffs are in the hundreds, with some expecting more than 500 people will be affected in their version of March Madness.

Some are telling me that a large round of layoffs will happen Thursday, affecting operations beyond the marketing-department cuts that happened on March 7.

T-Mobile again declined to comment last week on any recent and upcoming layoffs.

As of Friday afternoon, T-Mobile had not notified the state Employment Security Department of any mass layoff.

It doesn’t have to tell the state unless certain thresholds are met, but doing so makes it easier for the state to get job-placement services rolling.

Private companies don’t really have to say anything about what’s happening behind their walls.

But expectations are different for companies with the size and stature of T-Mobile, especially when they’re on the cusp of becoming publicly traded. Last year the company had about 4,800 employees in the area and 36,000 nationally.

T-Mobile already is providing summary financial results on its website, giving potential investors clues about what to expect from the company.

Perhaps it’s time to start providing as much consideration to the community in which the company’s invested.

Brier Dudley’s column appears Mondays. Reach him at

206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com

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