Apple's Search Engine Negotiations With Google Took Months of Near-Daily Meetings

Establishing a billion dollar search engine deal with Google took Apple more than four months, according to new details shared today by former Apple lawyer Bruce Sewell.

Sewell recently did an interview with a Columbia law student, which was noticed this afternoon by CNBC, and in the interview, he shared details on his time at Apple and some of the negotiations he handled for the company.


According to Sewell, he attended near daily meetings with Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Google lawyer Kent Walker when hammering out a deal, working alongside Tim Cook or Eddy Cue.

And then with myself and either Tim [Cook] or ‌Eddy Cue‌ who was my counterpart on that deal. They'd be at Google or we'd be at Apple almost every day, it's just one example there are a lot of those kinds of negotiations or lawsuits that just completely suck up all your time.

Sewell did not go into detail about the amount of money that Google pays Apple to be the primary search engine on Apple devices, but in the past, Google has been rumored to be paying billions for the privilege.

Sewell says that in his time at Apple, he had 900 people working under him. 600 of those were in the law group and included lawyers and paralegals.

In just one of the Samsung lawsuits, Apple had 350 people billing time on that case at any given moment, most of which were outside counsel because it's impossible for Apple to handle cases of that magnitude with an internal team. "And this was just one of them. There were seven of them going on," said Sewell.

There were seven or eight billion documents to review, and collectively, law firms billed Apple 280,000 hours. Sewell says his budget was "just shy of a billion dollars a year."

Sewell says that he steered Apple in the wrong direction on its iBooks negotiations, leading to the ‌iBooks‌ snafu with the U.S. government that cost Apple a lot of money because he didn't know about deals publishers made among themselves. Cook, though, was forgiving and said he'd made the right choices.

But that was an example of sailing as close to the wind because it was so important to Apple. But in the end, I got it wrong and Apple ended up having to pay a large fine. The reaction from Tim was "That's the right choice. You made the best choice that you could with the information you had. You didn't know about these other things. Don't let that scare you. I don't want you to stop pushing the envelope because that's why legal is an important function at the company."

During the interview, Sewell also shared a few tidbits about Apple CEO ‌Tim Cook‌, who he said would send him emails in the very early morning due to Cook's "crazy" work schedule.

From 4:00 a.m. to 5 a.m., there's a there's a lot of activity, so my first thing when I got up around 6:30 a.m. would be to check my email and see all the stuff that Tim had left for me, the little cookies he's left for me.

Sewell had other thoughts to share on working as a traditional lawyer vs. working for a major company as legal counsel, and his shift from Intel to Apple, which he likened to going to kindergarten from university given Apple's focus on creativity. The full interview can be watched in the video up above.

From 2009 to 2017, Bruce Sewell served as Apple's general counsel before retiring at the end of 2017. Sewell has since been replaced by Katherine Adams.

Top Rated Comments

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15 months ago

$1 billion: the price for Apple to abandon its stated goal of protecting its users’ privacy.

This is a nonsense statement.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
15 months ago
I can't blame Apple. Google is still the best search engine available. I'm using DuckDuckGo now most of the time but it still has its short comings.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
15 months ago

... I got it wrong and Apple ended up having to pay a large fine. The reaction from Tim was "That's the right choice. You made the best choice that you could with the information you had. ...

I find this to be the most interesting comment. A lot of CEOs would have had his head on a stick.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
15 months ago

$1 billion: the price for Apple to abandon its stated goal of promoting user privacy.

EDIT: changed “protecting” to “promoting”

This is a nonsense statement.

How is it a nonsense statement when everyone in here complains how Google gives away your data and won't use their services/apps?

You can't have it both ways. Google can't be evil privacy breakers while Apple uses them as the default browser and are the masters of keeping your info private.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
15 months ago

Establishing a billion dollar search engine deal with Google

$1 billion: the price for Apple to abandon its stated goal of promoting user privacy.

EDIT: changed “protecting” to “promoting”
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
15 months ago


From 4:00 a.m. to 5 a.m., there's a there's a lot of activity, so my first thing when I got up around 6:30 a.m. would be to check my email and see all the stuff that Tim had left for me, the little cookies he's left for me.

Hmm, for Sewell’s browser?? :p

Little known fact: Part of Cook's "crazy work schedule" involves overnight baking binges followed by sneaking into senior executives' houses to leave baked goods on the kitchen counter.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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