updated 07:00 pm EDT, Mon May 19, 2014
Producer is chair of Interscope Geffen, suggested buyout of Universal
Revisiting his notes, Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson has said that he thinks the rumored $3.2 billion Apple buyout of Beats Electronics may not be primarily about the latter company's accessories and music service. He said that he believes that the deal centers primarily around gaining Iovine and his access to content companies and producers that may make any agreement worth the money.
The rumor that Apple was in talks to acquire Beats -- and give co-founders Iovine and Andre Young (the latter known better as "Dr. Dre") executive positions -- left many observers scratching their heads, particularly over the pricetag. If accurate, Apple would be paying nearly 75 times more than it has ever spent on a single purchase before, including the acquisition of NeXT in 1996 that cost $400 million and brought Jobs back to his original company.
In an article for music industry trade mag Billboard, writer Dan Lyons (better known for his "Fake Steve Jobs" Twitter account) reports on Isaacson's discovery of notes about Iovine that establish him as a instrumental figure in brokering the music company content deals that made the original iTunes Store possible. Iovine also suggested some 10 years ago that Apple should buy Universal itself, of which Iovine serves as Chairman of one of its main labels, in order to gain control of a major content owner and producer.
Isaacson now believes Iovine could help Apple secure future content deals for both existing operations such as iTunes and Apple TV as well as future plans, which could include another television-related product. Cook and Apple SVP for Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue have been seen networking with cable and content industry executives, but have allegedly been stymied in their efforts to finesse deals related to future projects.
The article suggests that Apple may appoint Iovine and Young to take over Apple's digital content business, in a similar manner to how it has added Dame Angela Ahrendts and given her a custom-created mandate to run both Apple's retail and online store. Iovine's track record in bringing tech companies and content producers together may help Apple regain a portion of the creative vision it lost with Jobs' death, suggests Lyons, since Iovine and Jobs were friends and have similar reputations for unconventional thinking -- and enough clout to pull off unusual deals.