The Intractable—And Nearly Invisible—Eddy Cue

The man behind the man giving publishers a run for their money

Apple's Eddy Cue and News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch attend the launch of The Daily. | Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic


Battle-weary magazine publishers, in the middle of their most important fight yet, now find themselves up against a new—and powerful—enemy: Apple’s Eddy Cue.

The specter-like vice president of Internet services—who, despite being thrust into the limelight at the February launch of Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily, has long enjoyed his role of the faceless company man—has materialized with a fury. As the point person for publishers sparring with Apple for a subscription model they can live with—key to this is the ability to sell digital subscriptions, not just single copies, on the iPad—he has, after ceaseless haggling, offered them a model they seemingly can live without: not one of the top magazine companies has accepted the terms.

Dealing with the mysterious ways of Apple has always been an exercise in frustration. Few exemplify this more than the 47-year-old Cue, a man whose tweets are protected, Facebook profile is private, and who Apple, notoriously unhelpful to journalists, seems intent on shielding. An Apple PR person contacted Adweek after hearing from “one of our friends” that a story was in the works, but never replied to an interview request. Even the sighting at The Daily’s launch was less about exposure than the need for a stand-in for the ailing Steve Jobs.

Yet his influence is undisputed. Cue, who started at Apple some 20 years ago as a low-level IT staffer, has been running iTunes for several years (during the time it became a dominant force in music). In 2008, Jobs dispatched him to mend glitches in MobileMe, a subscription-based service, earning Cue the reputation as a fixer—and as Jobs’ man.

Some who know him say that Cue, a Duke alum and big Bull Devils basketball fan, comes across as upbeat and easygoing. Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a tech consulting firm, and one of a few with access to individual executives at Apple, describes Cue as “warm,” “unpretentious,” and quick to tell a joke. Bajarin adds that he’s extremely pointed in business discussions, the product of a culture prevalent at technology giants.

“They approach the market with the idea they can change the world,” he says.

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