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Daniel Eran

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photo Where is the iPod Killer? Part III
Edgar Bronfman Jr. is a big fat idiot


Edgar Bronfman Jr. sold the Bronfman family's 24.6% stake in Seagram for 8.6% of the new company. To avoid paying taxes, the deal was done entirely in stock. But by the time the killer deal was completed at the end of 2000, the dot com bubble had popped, plummeting shares from an initial $77.35 to $54, and killing $3 billion of the Bronfman family's wealth.

The flamboyant Messier wasn't finished yet however. He finalized Bronfman Jr.'s killing of Seagram by selling off the remaining booze business to rivals Diageo and Pernod Ricard. He resumed his dot com style buying frenzy, spending $2.2 billion on book publisher Houghton Mifflin, $1.5 billion for a stake in EchoStar Communications, and $3.2 billion for USA Networks, effectively re-buying the TV concern Bronfman Jr. had sold to Barry Diller, and which Vivendi would eventually have regained control of anyway.

Vivendi Universal also paid $400 million for and But Universal Music Group was a plaintiffs in a copyright infringement suit against, and Messier's company already had an iron in the fire with Sony to develop an online music store called Duet. Messier puzzling announced that Duet and would be operated "at arm's length" from one another.

With business skills like these, it's no wonder that by 2002, Vivendi Universal reported a corporate loss of 23.3 billion euros; the largest loss ever for a French company. A year before, Vivendi Universal had lost 13.6 billion euros. In all, Vivendi Universal managed to destroy at least $100 billion dollars in just a few years.

A very embarrassed Bronfman Jr. lead the ouster of Messier in 2001, after he abandoned his own executive role. After jumping ship of the burning remains of the Vivendi Universal fiasco, he lead investors in 2004 on a buyout of Warner Music Group from Time Warner, ending up in his current role as a music executive.

Which brings us back to the iPod. Because now this Edgar Bronfman Jr. boob, the destroyer of Bronfman wealth, a talentless hack, an incompetent executive, a complete jackass, is suggesting that somehow the money that Apple is earning through engineering a hardware product and creating a legitimate online marketplace for music is not enough. He thinks iPod profits somehow owe him royalties, and that customers should pay more for the songs they are more likely to want to buy.

Of course, there's nothing new about Bronfman Jr.'s crass ignorance of how to earn money on creative works. In 1998, he outraged the movie industry by proposing that theaters charge higher prices for more expensive movies. Bronfman Jr. was no doubt the executive Steve Jobs had in mind when he said, "If they want to raise the prices, it means that they are getting greedy. If the price goes up, they [consumers] will go back to piracy and everybody loses."

Bronfman Jr.'s brilliant reply was, "There's no content that I know of that does not have variable pricing. Not all songs are created equal, not all time periods are created equal. We want, and will insist upon having, variable pricing." He must have known about movie theaters not having variable pricing, given that he'd embarrassed himself with that exact same idea back when he was trying to hawk expensive movies.

But he continued, "We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don’t have a share of iPod’s revenue. We want to share in those revenue streams. We have to get out of the mindset that our content has promotional value only."

So there you have it folks, even expert killer Edgar Bronfman Jr. has no interest in actually killing the iPod. He merely wants to kill a more abstract goose for its golden eggs, and somehow continue to reap royalties from the iPod and anything it might be used to do.

He does know first hand how not to run a music store; both Duet (later renamed Pressplay) and failed to go anywhere, as did the competing consortium MusicNet. If music executives can't figure out how to sell any songs themselves, they better not threaten kill the one store that can.

It seems pretty clear that the only way Edgar Bronfman Jr. could kill the iPod is if he managed to get hired at Apple in an executive capacity. That being the case, it's hard to see why so many pundits picked up his rant and presented it as the latest proof that the iPod's days were numbered. Are they all just confused? Stupid? Microsoft shills?

There is no iPod Killer just yet. All that death you smell is just WMP's rotting corpse in bloodied waters, left to drift in the wake of... the Killer iPod.

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Related articles:
Analysts fail to predict Apple's success with iPod
The Secret Weapon Inside iTunes


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