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Beats' Iovine: When you met Steve Jobs, you found the party

Apple's founder was as powerful a force -- and just as cool -- as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, says Beats Electronics father and newly minted Apple executive Jimmy Iovine.

Apple founder Steve Jobs and Jimmy Iovine worked together repeatedly after meeting as Jobs was creating iTunes in 2003. Getty

NEW YORK -- Beats Electronics founder Jimmy Iovine made his career out of recognizing cool. His epitome of it: Steve Jobs.

The veteran record producer worked with Apple multiple times after meeting Jobs more than a decade ago, and his vantage point on the company's past and future took on greater significance following the electronics maker's $3 billion acquisition this year of Beats. That move -- as bold as it was baffling -- brought Iovine into the fold of Apple's upper management.

Speaking Wednesday at conference organized by the University of Southern California, Iovine called Jobs, Apple's co-founder and longtime leader who died in October 2011, a "fascinating, unique individual" who fostered a marriage of tech and culture "that's going to be around forever."

But his first impression of Jobs, formed around 2003 when record producer Iovine was reeling over the music industry's uncertain future amid digitization post-Napster, was that Jobs had the undefinable "it" factor -- and he had it in spades.

"I follow cool," Iovine said. "When I went up to see Steve Jobs, I said, 'The party's at this guy's house.'"

Jobs was "John, Paul, George and Ringo, Mick and Keith in one guy," he said, referring to the members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Apple agreed to buy Beats in May, bringing the electronics giant a popular headphones business, a subscription streaming-music service, and co-founders Iovine and Dr. Dre to Apple's management. The underlying strategy for the pricey purchase, the first of its kind in Apple's history, stumped observers -- Apple could create similar headphones or services on its own, after all.

The mystery of the move has generated speculation that Apple's true target in the acquisition was Iovine himself and his influence in the music industry. Iovine has been a record producer for more 40 years, founder of Interscope Records who has worked with a constellation of recording luminaries from John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen to Eminem, Lady Gaga and U2.

Iovine's comments at the conference provided glimpses into the personal business philosophy he'll bring to Apple.

"Everything Dre and I do is completely on feel, we don't prepare for anything...we only work on instinct," Iovine said.

He also lamented the divide in most companies' top management between technology and the creative world, saying the tech business has "zero feel" for popular culture in the absence of Jobs. However, he reserved some praise for Jobs' successor, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, however.

"Tim bought Beats," he said. "Obviously I think he's really smart."