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How Steve Jobs, Fox studio chief became friends

Fox's Filmed Entertainment CEO Jim Gianopulos recounts his difficult business dealings and ultimate friendship with the late Apple leader.


Steve Jobs undoubtedly made a strong impression in the tech and entertainment worlds, including on a Fox executive who started out as a potential business partner and eventually became a friend.

Writing about his personal history with Jobs in a recent article for The Hollywood Reporter, Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO Jim Gianopulos recounted both the difficulties and the pleasures of working with the icon.

Though Gianopulos had already known Jobs for several years, the two were put in the position of negotiating with each other in the spring and summer of 2006 when Apple was trying to expand iTunes to sell feature films in addition to music and TV shows. The two chatted both in person and by phone trying to iron out an agreement, which apparently was high on Jobs' agenda as he was hoping to announce the deal that fall.

"We were very eager to make it work--but nowhere near as eager as Steve, who wanted to corral all the studios and make one of his bold and exciting announcements, which he'd scheduled for September," Gianopulos wrote. "We wanted to change things; he wanted to change them now."

But by August, the two men still remained far apart, according to Gianopulos. To grab some R&R, the Fox exec snuck off to his retreat on an island near Greece. But a determined Jobs tracked him down by e-mail with an offer to meet. Though Jobs didn't make it to the island retreat, Gianopulos said the two eventually managed to hash out a deal, which "evolved into a great friendship."

A later event at MacWorld in which the two men were slated to appear before a large audience found Gianopulos nervous with stage fright. Offering some advice, Jobs told him, "It's easy, you just imagine you have a few friends sitting around your living room and you're telling them what's new."

Gianopulos said he's used that advice in every speech since but noted that "no one did it like Steve, because he knew what those 6,000 people and millions more wanted, even before they did."

Jobs also loved and knew music, Gianopulos said, recounting that the first place his friend visited after receiving a liver transplant in Memphis in 2009 was Sun Records, which the Apple chief considered the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. For Jobs' next birthday, Gianopulos gave him a 45 record of Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On," autographed by Lewis himself.

"That really captured the Steve Jobs I knew: The guy who revolutionized the way we enjoy music in the 21st century thought having a vintage 45 from the mid-'50s was the coolest thing ever," Gianopulos remembered.

The last conversation between the two took place a few weeks following Jobs' announcement that he was resigning as Apple CEO. Though Jobs sounded frail, he was still bursting with new ideas and told Gianopulos not to let what happened to the music business happen to the film business and to keep coming up with better ways to offer people content.

"We all owe it to Steve to do that," Gianopulos said. "We'll just miss him telling us how."

Jobs' advice to Gianopulos may still play out as he envisioned. Apple has reportedly been talking with Hollywood studios about offering customers a way to stream movies. If studios sign on the dotted line, such a deal would let Apple users buy films via iTunes and then stream them to their iOS devices, PCs, and Apple TVs. Potentially using iCloud on the back end, Apple is hoping to kick off the new service by the end of this year or early 2012.