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Trump’s Covid Comments Complicate Business Liability Issues

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President Trump has returned to the White House after a three-day stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment of his Covid-19 infection. But speculation that he might adopt a more cautious attitude toward the disease was quickly erased.

“Don’t let it dominate your lives,” Mr. Trump said of the coronavirus in a video recorded at the White House last night. “Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it.” Meanwhile, his administration is blocking proposed federal guidelines requiring strict scrutiny of potential Covid-19 vaccines, which he described in the video as coming “momentarily.”

His words may pose problems for business reopenings. They could make some people more cavalier about coronavirus protection measures, including at the office, said Robert Rabin of Stanford Law School. (“We’re going back to work,” Mr. Trump said. “Get out there.”) This raises questions about employers’ and business venues’ liability for infections, as Republicans continue to advocate a legal liability shield for companies as part of any stimulus deal.

• The purpose of liability law is to incentivize responsible behavior by making irresponsibility costly, said Justin Wolfers, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan. “We’d expect to see many more irresponsible choices being made” by those taking the president’s comments to heart, he said.

What happens next? Mr. Trump said he would return to the campaign trail “soon,” with polls taken after his diagnosis showing no sympathy bounce. The stock market is up from its level before the president’s test was announced, which many take as a sign that investors are pricing in odds of a more decisive victory by Joe Biden, reducing fears of a contested result.

• A “blue wave” result, in which the Democrats control all arms of government, would result in higher corporate taxes and special levies on foreign income, which would hit high-flying tech firms the hardest. At the same time, unified control would make a big stimulus bill more likely, which would “at least match the likely longer-term tax increases on corporations and upper-income earners,” Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs’ chief economist, wrote in a new research note.

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Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin and Lauren Hirsch in New York, Ephrat Livni in Washington and Michael J. de la Merced and Jason Karaian in London.

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ImageWayne LaPierre of the N.R.A.
Credit…Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Gov. Andrew Cuomo blocks neighborhood lockdowns in New York City. The New York governor said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to shut nonessential businesses where infection rates were rising would have been ineffective. It’s the latest conflict between the governor and the mayor, adding to the angst and uncertainty around New York’s economy.

The I.R.S. is reportedly investigating the National Rifle Association’s chief for criminal fraud. At issue is whether Wayne LaPierre underreported his income by not declaring benefits like yacht trips and safaris, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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Bristol Myers Squibb makes a big move into heart treatments. The pharmaceutical giant struck a $13 billion deal to acquire MyoKardia, in part to diversify away from cancer drugs after buying Celgene for $74 billion last year.

A House report on tech giants’ power is held up over politics. Democratic staff on the House Judiciary Committee delayed publishing the findings from a 15-month investigation into the dominance of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook after Republicans refused to sign on, The Times reports. Reining in tech companies had been a bipartisan priority, but the parties now look to be taking different approaches.

The editor of The Los Angeles Times is stepping down. Norman Pearlstine, a veteran journalist, will begin looking for a successor, two years after the billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the newspaper for $500 million, and two weeks after it published a scathing self-reflection on its ethical and management shortcomings.

Credit…Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Shares in movie theater chains plunged yesterday after Cineworld said it would shut its venues in the U.S. and Britain for at least two months, after the latest James Bond movie was delayed. Even more blockbusters were rescheduled after the announcement.

Cineworld’s stock fell as much as 60 percent after its move, which affects 663 venues and 45,000 employees. Shares in its main rival, AMC, fell as well.

• Last Friday, S&P downgraded AMC’s credit rating two notches deeper into junk status, saying that the chain could run out of liquidity in six months unless movie attendance improves. And Cineworld must find ways to service $8.2 billion in net borrowing.

The problem — no new movies — is only getting worse. After the Cineworld announcement, Warner Bros. rescheduled two more big releases, pushing “Dune” from December to next October, and “The Batman” (already delayed after its star, Robert Pattinson, contracted Covid-19) from October 2021 to 2022. The latest Wonder Woman movie is still due around Christmas, but who knows for how long?

• “If the studios continue postponing all their releases, the movie theaters aren’t going to be there for those postponed releases,” the head of the National Association of Theatre Owners told The Times.

PayPal and Just Capital are launching an initiative today to encourage companies to rank employees’ financial security on par with other priorities. They are providing tools that managers can use to measure whether their employees might struggle to make ends meet.

DealBook spoke with Dan Schulman, PayPal’s C.E.O., and Just Capital’s co-founder Paul Tudor Jones about the importance of livable salaries — and what it’s like to realize your own employees aren’t making enough to get by.

Employers may discover “a different reality than what you might expect,” Mr. Schulman said. After PayPal spun out of eBay, Mr. Schulman conducted an internal pay audit, looking at how much cash workers had after essential living expenses and tax. PayPal already paid at or above market rates, so he assumed he would be able to show off positive results at an all-company meeting. But in fact, almost two-thirds of the company’s call-center and entry-level workers “were struggling to make ends meet at the end of the month,” Mr. Schulman said.

• It was a sign that “you can’t count on the market because the market isn’t working for a large segment of our population,” he said.

They argue fair pay is good for business — and shareholders. “What we have to do is get away from this mentality that I’ve got to keep my labor costs as low as I possibly can,” said Mr. Tudor Jones, “because the only purpose of a business is to make a profit à la Milton Friedman.” He and Mr. Schulman argue that higher pay boosts the economy and helps companies recruit, both important factors for long-term success.

• “So many great C.E.O.s,” Mr. Tudor Jones said, “spend a lot of their time philanthropically when, in actuality, the first place to start is under the own roof of your business.”

Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

Chamath Palihapitiya’s blank-check company, Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings, is acquiring Medicare Advantage insurance company Clover, in a deal valuing the company at $3.7 billion. The deal includes up to $1.2 billion in cash proceeds, $400 million of which will be through a private investment in the public entity, or PIPE, led by Mr. Palihapitiya, the billionaire former Facebook executive turned tech investor.

Clover considers itself primarily a tech company. It was founded in 2013, and sells Medicare Advantage plans in counties that include rural or underserved areas, while also offering physicians software that it says aggregates key data to improve care and cut costs. “What makes us different — and why I think we get along with Chamath — is we offer technology first, not technology-enabled,” said Andrew Toy, Clover’s president and chief technology officer. That said, the company laid off about a quarter of its employees last year as it sought to hire more health experts. “Technology can solve a lot of problems, but it can’t solve all problems right at the same time,” Mr. Toy said of the move.

• Clover will add scale with the cash it’s getting from the deal, helping it achieve profitability, a goal it hopes to meet by 2023.

Third time’s the charm. The SPAC merging with Clover is the third such deal by Mr. Palihapitiya, following the real estate start-up Opendoor and the space tourism company Virgin Galactic. (The investor is also raising $2 billion for three more SPACs.) Mr. Palihapitiya said he is taking a portfolio approach to selecting targets, with the common ingredient being bets on technology. He stressed that he is putting money at risk: Social Capital Hedosophia has invested $453 million of personal capital across the three deals, a big chunk of the $3 billion it raised in total.

• “I have put a lot of money on the line in the hopes these businesses can, frankly, do good things in the world. And if they do good things, I would like to profit from them as well,” Mr. Palihapitiya said.

Nearly 16,000 positive coronavirus cases recently went unrecorded in England’s tracking system, officials said yesterday. The glitch led to an undercount of the country’s tally and a delay in tracing infected people’s contacts, leaving tens of thousands of people in the dark about their potential exposure.

The system was felled by a spreadsheet glitch. It relies on files formatted for an older version of Microsoft Excel, which can only handle a certain number of cells. When key files got too big, thousands of entries were skipped. As the government’s central dashboard began to show suspiciously fewer cases than other sources, techies identified the problem. To fix it, large files are now split before feeding them into the system — in other words, more spreadsheets.

It’s another entry in the annals of Excel horror stories. Spreadsheets’ power comes from their flexibility, which also makes them dangerous. Spreadsheet snafus have thwarted genetic research, enabled billion-dollar trading losses and led to misguided notions about fiscal austerity, among other things. That England’s much-maligned test-and-trace system succumbed to such a mundane error — and that it relied so heavily on spreadsheets at all — led to geeky humor that might be amusing, if it weren’t so serious.

Deals

• The former co-C.E.O. of Bridgewater Associates, Eileen Murray, has settled a lawsuit against the hedge fund over $100 million in pay she said was being improperly withheld. (WSJ)

• Icon Health & Fitness, the owner of the NordicTrack brand, raised $200 million from investors like L Catterton at a $7 billion valuation. (Bloomberg)

SPAC corner

• Faraday Future is the latest electric vehicle maker seeking to go public by merging with a blank-check fund. And Romeo Systems, which makes batteries for electric cars, will merge with a SPAC in a $1.3 billion deal. (Reuters)

• Bankers and investors are hoping to bring SPACs to the London stock market. (FT)

Politics and policy

• Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative and one of Washington’s toughest critics of China, has become a defender of Beijing in hopes of salvaging a trade deal. (NYT)

• How President Trump’s promises to save the coal industry have fallen short. (NYT)

Tech

• What Google and Oracle’s Supreme Court battle means for the future of the software industry. (Protocol)

• Nvidia pledged to build a new supercomputer in Britain as part of its efforts to secure approval for its $40 billion takeover of the British chip designer Arm. (FT)

Best of the rest

• Given the virus, wildfires and high cost of living, companies ask: Is California worth it? (NYT)

• Vorayuth Yoovidhya is the heir to the Red Bull fortune. He’s also sought by Interpol. (NYT)

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you tomorrow.

We’d love your feedback. Please email thoughts and suggestions to dealbook@nytimes.com.

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Dunkin’ Brands Is Said to Be Near Deal to Sell Itself and Go Private

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Dunkin’ Brands, the parent company of the Dunkin’ and Baskin Robbins chains, is nearing a deal to sell itself to a private equity-backed company, Inspire Brands, that could be announced as soon as Monday, two people with knowledge of the negotiations said.

The deal being discussed would take Dunkin’ Brands private at a price of $106.50 a share, these people said. That would be a 20 percent premium over the company’s closing price on Friday, and implies a company valuation of about $8.8 billion. Dunkin’s share price has more than doubled since March, as investors took heed of its success in building up its app and drive-through services. Its shares are up about 18 percent from a year ago.

The transaction would add Dunkin’ Brands to Inspire Brands’ portfolio, which includes Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic and Jimmy John’s. Inspire is backed by the private equity firm Roark Capital.

The two people requested anonymity because the talks are confidential, and they cautioned that the deal was not yet final and could still fall apart.

The company has said that as stay-at-home orders have shifted working patterns, customers have been coming to its stores later in the day than they used to and spending more on newer and more expensive items like espresso and other specialty beverages. Dunkin’ already brings in more than half its revenue through drinks, and it dropped “Donut” from its name last year as it seeks to shift its emphasis to coffee and take on Starbucks more directly.

“While Dunkin’ may not have been thought of by investors as a beneficiary of the current environment, these results make the case that it has been,” analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote in a research note this summer.

Michelle King, a spokeswoman for Dunkin’ told The Times, “As a public company it is our policy not to comment on rumors or speculation.” A spokesman for Inspire Brands had no comment.

During the pandemic, Dunkin’ has been bolstered by its drive-throughs and online ordering systems, allowing its restaurants to continue to serve customers while smaller, independent chains have faltered. It took an initial hit in the pandemic, reporting a 20 percent drop in sales in the second quarter and announcing plans to close about 800 of its least-profitable stores. But business since then has been improving.

Dunkin’ Brands, whose 21,000 outlets are all franchised, reported revenue last year of $1.4 billion and a profit of more than $240 million.

The chain has been private before. It was owned by a consortium of private equity firms, led by Bain Capital, Carlyle Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners, who acquired Dunkin’ Donuts from Pernod Ricard in a $2.4 billion deal in 2005. The firms took it public six years later.

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3 Secrets to Building a Winning Sales Culture

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October 25, 2020 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Let’s hire a hotshot, expert closer, and to make sure the rest of the company helps out, let’s add “everyone sells” as a rallying cry to address our slumping

I have heard that line from so many companies struggling to generate sales. In an average organization, sales rely on the capabilities of a few skilled individuals who are rewarded for creating as many transactions as possible. They do whatever it takes to close the deal and create temporary results — temporary because they must be consistently recreated for a to survive.

On the other hand, everyone else attempts to rise to the vague “everyone sells” call-to-action, despite being plagued by the question, “What does that mean exactly?” If sales becomes absolutely results-driven without consulting anyone else, the company will become less productive and effective.

According to a seven-year study by GiANT Worldwide, the average functions at just 58 percent of its potential because it is not intentionally capturing the genius of eeach person. Instead, it relies on the drive of just one or two “leaders.” Imagine what that means for your business. How many more clients could you serve, and what would revenue and sales look like, if you harnessed more of the team’s capacity?

Related: 5 Things About Your Brand Your Sales Team Must Sell

So how do you build a winning sales ?

Secret 1: Never hire a rockstar salesperson if you want your company to grow 

Instead, build a balanced team, because who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work and view their contributions. According to 5 Voices authors Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram, a winning culture includes five specific type of contributors that complement each other’s weaknesses and are essential to business growth: the Pioneer, Connector, Guardian, Creative and Nurturer. 

The Pioneer is usually the person in charge. In this case, the rockstar salesperson is vital because they are results-focused and strategic in thinking. Unfortunately, once they have an idea they want to execute, they rarely ask for input or opinion. Often, they dismiss others they believe are not competent or as experienced as they are. This behavior can be a major contributor to the low functioning of a team. The alternative is to create an intentionally dynamic team

A Connector is the evangelist of ideas and an expert at finding resources. They always seem to know a person who knows a person who can help. They love to share what is happening and inspire others to engage by just talking about an idea. As people pleasers, they have difficulty challenging ideas and will just go along, but often tell people different stories to get agreement. When those people compare notes, they think they were being lied to when the Connector feels they were telling each the same thing.

The Guardian is the process-and-systems guru and key to scaling any operation. They hate to waste resources and are risk averse. A focus on the here and now means they ask the tough questions about how you are going to move from where you are to where you want to be. “We’ll figure it out as we go” is not an option. These folks often clash with the go-getters on a team because it feels like an anchor holding everyone back.

The Creative is an idea scout. When they hear something, they immediately start analyzing all the routes to goal-achievement, including a detailed risk assessment about what is the smartest way to get there. They tend to be perfectionists and may push to avoid as many stumbling blocks as possible in a strategy or plan. 

Finally, there is the Nurturer. This is someone who knows the pulse of an organization and is a natural team player. They will always put people first and are great representatives of the how your customers will respond to a product or service and how the company will respond to a change. They will always ask, “Does this feel right? Is it the right thing to do by the customer and the company?” But because they do not like conflict, they will hold on to their ideas unless they feel absolutely safe.

Secret 2: Be intentional with company culture from the start

Much like business processes, company culture is inherently dynamic. It is the result of a constant interaction of elements and practices that grow and change with the company. These can be either accidental or intentional.

An accidental culture will organically form based on the mood and behaviors of the individuals in it. This is usually how toxic environments form, as the norms of acceptable behavior are defined by the few who are in charge. 

On the other hand, an intentional culture is one that deliberately monitors team performance to establish practices and behavioral norms to make everyone feel safe when sharing ideas. It focuses on communicating vision and direction.  It makes certain that everyone is aligned so that they know exactly how they contribute to the company’s success. It’s an “everyone is in sales” culture

Secret 3: Align everyone around the customer experience

The key to the “everyone is in sales” rallying cry is an effective and impactful process designed to reflect the experience you want your clients to have. This starts with creating a map of the customer journey that identifies every opportunity for a service breakdown. Involve all staff who are involved in a process at these critical interaction points. Be sure to collect data about the process to keep the conversations objective and avoid the blame game.

Once you have identified the breakdowns, convert those to breakthroughs, and redesign internal processes to support the customer journey to be what you want every client to have. Involve every process stakeholder in the process to build support for the ideas, and increase adoption through a heightened sense of accountability for the sales process.  Through engagement of the team, the sales process becomes core to everyone’s job and not left to the person in the field making the deals.

Related: 4 Strategies to Make Your Sales Funnels Convert in 2020

Historically, impressions of a winning sales culture have been predicated on the false beliefs that: 1. Because a rockstar salesperson can temporarily save a company, we should just hire more of them; 2. Focusing on culture won’t provide a measurable ROI; and 3. Culture is something to worry about after we resolve our revenue issue.

To change your business reality, do an honest assessment of the team tendencies and determine which of the contributing voices mentioned above is missing. Hire to fill that gap so that you have an inclusive, balanced culture. Set rules of engagement that show that it is OK to be wrong or fail because you support each other. Focus on intentional communication; not a need-to-know basis exclusion, but transparency in message and content. Finally, make sure everyone knows how they contribute to the customer’s experience.

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Apple, Google and a Deal That Controls the Internet

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OAKLAND, Calif. — When Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, the chief executives of Apple and Google, were photographed eating dinner together in 2017 at an upscale Vietnamese restaurant called Tamarine, the picture set off a tabloid-worthy frenzy about the relationship between the two most powerful companies in Silicon Valley.

As the two men sipped red wine at a window table inside the restaurant in Palo Alto, their companies were in tense negotiations to renew one of the most lucrative business deals in history: an agreement to feature Google’s search engine as the preselected choice on Apple’s iPhone and other devices. The updated deal was worth billions of dollars to both companies and cemented their status at the top of the tech industry’s pecking order.

Now, the partnership is in jeopardy. Last Tuesday, the Justice Department filed a landmark lawsuit against Google — the U.S. government’s biggest antitrust case in two decades — and homed in on the alliance as a prime example of what prosecutors say are the company’s illegal tactics to protect its monopoly and choke off competition in web search.

The scrutiny of the pact, which was first inked 15 years ago and has rarely been discussed by either company, has highlighted the special relationship between Silicon Valley’s two most valuable companies — an unlikely union of rivals that regulators say is unfairly preventing smaller companies from flourishing.

“We have this sort of strange term in Silicon Valley: co-optation,” said Bruce Sewell, Apple’s general counsel from 2009 to 2017. “You have brutal competition, but at the same time, you have necessary cooperation.”

Apple and Google are joined at the hip even though Mr. Cook has said internet advertising, Google’s bread and butter, engages in “surveillance” of consumers and even though Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, once promised “thermonuclear war” on his Silicon Valley neighbor when he learned it was working on a rival to the iPhone.

Apple and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, worth more than $3 trillion combined, do compete on plenty of fronts, like smartphones, digital maps and laptops. But they also know how to make nice when it suits their interests. And few deals have been nicer to both sides of the table than the iPhone search deal.

Nearly half of Google’s search traffic now comes from Apple devices, according to the Justice Department, and the prospect of losing the Apple deal has been described as a “code red” scenario inside the company. When iPhone users search on Google, they see the search ads that drive Google’s business. They can also find their way to other Google products, like YouTube.

A former Google executive, who asked not to be identified because he was not permitted to talk about the deal, said the prospect of losing Apple’s traffic was “terrifying” to the company.

The Justice Department, which is asking for a court injunction preventing Google from entering into deals like the one it made with Apple, argues that the arrangement has unfairly helped make Google, which handles 92 percent of the world’s internet searches, the center of consumers’ online lives.

Online businesses like Yelp and Expedia, as well as companies ranging from noodle shops to news organizations, often complain that Google’s search domination enables it to charge advertising fees when people simply look up their names, as well as to steer consumers toward its own products, like Google Maps. Microsoft, which had its own antitrust battle two decades ago, has told British regulators that if it were the default option on iPhones and iPads, it would make more advertising money for every search on its rival search engine, Bing.

What’s more, competitors like DuckDuckGo, a small search engine that sells itself as a privacy-focused alternative to Google, could never match Google’s tab with Apple.

Apple now receives an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion in annual payments — up from $1 billion a year in 2014 — in exchange for building Google’s search engine into its products. It is probably the single biggest payment that Google makes to anyone and accounts for 14 to 21 percent of Apple’s annual profits. That’s not money Apple would be eager to walk away from.

In fact, Mr. Cook and Mr. Pichai met again in 2018 to discuss how they could increase revenue from search. After the meeting, a senior Apple employee wrote to a Google counterpart that “our vision is that we work as if we are one company,” according to the Justice Department’s complaint.

A forced breakup could mean the loss of easy money to Apple. But it would be a more significant threat to Google, which would have no obvious way to replace the lost traffic. It could also push Apple to acquire or build its own search engine. Within Google, people believe that Apple is one of the few companies in the world that could offer a formidable alternative, according to one former executive. Google has also worried that without the agreement, Apple could make it more difficult for iPhone users to get to the Google search engine.

A spokesman for Apple declined to comment on the partnership, while a Google spokesman pointed to a blog post in which the company defended the relationship.

Even though its bill with Apple keeps going up, Google has said again and again that it dominates internet search because consumers prefer it, not because it is buying customers. The company argues that the Justice Department is painting an incomplete picture; its partnership with Apple, it says, is no different than Coca-Cola paying a supermarket for prominent shelf space.

Other search engines like Microsoft’s Bing also have revenue-sharing agreements with Apple to appear as secondary search options on iPhones, Google says in its defense. It adds that Apple allows people to change their default search engine from Google — though few probably do because people typically don’t tinker with such settings and many prefer Google anyway.

Apple has rarely, if ever, publicly acknowledged its deal with Google, and according to Bernstein Research, has mentioned its so-called licensing revenue in an earnings call for the first time this year.

According to a former senior executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality contracts, Apple’s leaders have made the same calculation about Google as much of the general public: The utility of its search engine is worth the cost of its invasive practices.

“Their search engine is the best,” Mr. Cook said when asked by Axios in late 2018 why he partnered with a company he also implicitly criticized. He added that Apple had also created ways to blunt Google’s collection of data, such as a private-browsing mode on Apple’s internet browser.

The deal is not limited to searches in Apple’s Safari browser; it extends to virtually all searches done on Apple devices, including with Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, and on Google’s iPhone app and Chrome browser.

The relationship between the companies has swung from friendly to contentious to today’s “co-optation.” In the early years of Google, the company’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, saw Mr. Jobs as a mentor, and they would take long walks with him to discuss the future of technology.

In 2005, Apple and Google inked what at the time seemed like a modest deal: Google would be the default search engine on Apple’s Safari browser on Mac computers.

Quickly, Mr. Cook, then still a deputy to Mr. Jobs, saw the arrangement’s lucrative potential, according to another former senior Apple executive who asked not to be named. Google’s payments were pure profit, and all Apple had to do was feature a search engine its users already wanted.

Apple expanded the deal for its big upcoming product: the iPhone. When Mr. Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2007, he invited Eric Schmidt, Google’s then chief executive, to join him onstage for the first of Apple’s many famous iPhone events.

“If we just sort of merged the two companies, we could just call them AppleGoo,” joked Mr. Schmidt, who was also on Apple’s board of directors. With Google search on the iPhone, he added, “you can actually merge without merging.”

Then the relationship soured. Google had quietly been developing a competitor to the iPhone: smartphone software called Android that any phone maker could use. Mr. Jobs was furious. In 2010, Apple sued a phone maker that used Android. “I’m going to destroy Android,” Mr. Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson. “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to.”

A year later, Apple introduced Siri. Instead of Google underpinning the virtual assistant, it was Microsoft’s Bing.

Yet the companies’ partnership on iPhones continued — too lucrative for either side to blow it up. Apple had arranged the deal to require periodic renegotiations, according to a former senior executive, and each time, it extracted more money from Google.

“You have to be able to maintain those relationships and not burn a bridge,” said Mr. Sewell, Apple’s former general counsel, who declined to discuss specifics of the deal. “At the same time, when you’re negotiating on behalf of your company and you’re trying to get the best deal, then, you know, the gloves come off.”

Around 2017, the deal was up for renewal. Google was facing a squeeze, with clicks on its mobile ads not growing fast enough. Apple was not satisfied with Bing’s performance for Siri. And Mr. Cook had just announced that Apple aimed to double its services revenue to $50 billion by 2020, an ambitious goal that would be possible only with Google’s payments.

By the fall of 2017, Apple announced that Google was now helping Siri answer questions, and Google disclosed that its payments for search traffic had jumped. The company offered an anodyne explanation to part of the reason it was suddenly paying some unnamed company hundreds of millions of dollars more: “changes in partner agreements.”

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