Jimmy Iovine is leaving Apple after it dropped $3 billion to help get him -- but it's not going to be a disaster

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesJimmy Iovine at Apple’s WWDC event in 2015.
  • Jimmy Iovine is reportedly leaving Apple in August after his shares vest.
  • Iovine was a networker who helped put Apple on the map for original radio shows.
  • But Iovine was gaffe-prone and worked best in a behind-the-scenes role.
  • Apple’s focus now seems to be on original television and movies for its streaming service, which isn’t Iovine’s speciality.

The record producer and Beats cofounder Jimmy Iovine is reportedly planning to leave Apple in August after his shares fully vest. Apple never publicly disclosed Iovine’s title inside the company, but it’s likely that he was a dealmaker working on Apple Music to bring in exclusives and original radio shows and to work with record labels.

The news was first reported by Hits Daily Double, and then Billboard backed it up with its own sources on Thursday.

Iovine’s network was hugely valuable for Apple

Losing Iovine is certainly a blow for Apple – he gave the company a valuable link between technology and record labels that allowed it to turns Beats’ streaming music service into Apple Music.

But perhaps the most valuable thing Iovine brought to Apple was his enviable contact book in the music industry. Through Iovine’s career as a record producer, then as a label executive with Interscope, he came to know a huge range of artists and other people in the industry.

Those contacts came in handy when it came to building a series of original shows for Apple Music. Apple brought in presenters such as Elton John, Pharrell Williams, and Joshua Homme.

Apple Music lineupApple MusicThe lineup of Beats 1 radio shows.

In fact, Bloomberg reported in September 2015 that Iovine may have been the main reason that Apple spent $US3 billion (£2.2 billion) on acquiring Beats. Yes, there was a line of headphones and the beginning of a promising streaming service, but Iovine’s network and reputation in the industry allowed Apple to build a formidable streaming service of its own.

He worked best as a behind-the-scenes operator

Iovine was never a good fit with Apple’s public image, however. He often felt like the opposite of the company’s restrained approach to interviews and onstage talks.

Take Iovine’s onstage debut at Apple’s WWDC event in June 2015: Iovine’s speech was rambling and included a sex joke. It caused the Apple site The Loop to plead: “Please Apple, don’t let Jimmy Iovine on stage again. Or at least, make him rehearse.” And 512 Pixels called it “awkward” and stumbling.

And in November 2015, Iovine was forced to issue a statement apologising for remarks he made about women during a TV interview. “I always knew that women, some women, at times find it very difficult to find music, and this helps make it easier with playlists, curated by real people, not by algorithms alone,” Iovine said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.”

“I just thought of a problem. Girls are sitting around, talking about boys, right?” he continued. “Or complaining about boys, when they have their heart broken or whatever, and they need music for that, right? And they need music for that. So it’s hard to find the right music. Not everyone has the right list or knows a DJ.”

Iovine later released a statement apologising for his remarks. “We created Apple Music to make finding the right music easier for everyone – men and women, young and old,” Iovine’s statement said. “Our new ad focuses on women, which is why I answered the way I did, but of course the same applies equally for men. I could have chosen my words better, and I apologise.”

But perhaps Iovine’s work is done at Apple

Apple Carpool KaraokeAppleApple acquired the rights to the ‘Carpool Karaoke’ series.

It seems likely that Iovine and Apple have reached a natural time to part. Iovine gave Apple a streaming service, a lineup of presenters, and industry kudos. Now it’s up to Apple to take it from here – and Apple’s Apple Music head, Eddy Cue, can continue the work Iovine has started. Cue is a notoriously tough negotiator who can build on Iovine’s contacts.

Apple’s focus now seems to be on video content, which was never Iovine’s speciality. The company reportedly has a $US1 billion (£738 million) budget for shows and movies that it will bring to its streaming service.

And with that budget comes new, high-profile hires from the entertainment world. It brought in Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg from Sony and has tasked them with bringing in original content.

Video could be the ideal way for Apple to compete with Spotify’s streaming offering. If Apple can offer a lineup of streaming music, radio shows, and TV and movies, that’s going to be a strong offer.

Spotify had hoped to provide its own original video content, but that effort seems to have stalled. “There have been a lot of fits and starts,” one content producer told Business Insider in June. “They are not active in the market right now.”

So perhaps this is the direction that Apple is going down – embracing original video content as its differentiator to competitors like Spotify. That makes sense for Apple but perhaps wasn’t quite what Iovine had planned on when he joined.

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