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Apple's Intel play and Leo DiCaprio's enduring prestige

Byers Market is a daily newsletter from NBC News senior media reporter Dylan Byers that takes you behind the scenes in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, New York and Washington.
Image: Tim Cook
Tim Cook, exits the stage during the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, California, on June 8, 2015.David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images

July 23, 2019 | Hollywood

Good morning. 🏛️ Sundar Pichai, Bob Swan and other telecom execs met with President Donald Trump yesterday and got his commitment for a timely licensing decision on their deals with Huawei.

🇨🇳 Sign of the times: China now has more companies on the Fortune Global 500 than the U.S., a sign of "how profoundly the world’s balance of power is shifting."

Join the Market.

Tim Cook nears Intel deal

Moving the Market: Tim Cook is in late-stage talks to acquire Intel's smartphone-modem chip business from Bob Swan, revitalizing a deal that would give Apple the ability to develop crucial hardware for its devices, The Wall Street Journal reports and a source familiar with the matter confirms.

The cost: North of $1 billion.

The big picture: The transaction would be important for both companies "strategically and financially," WSJ's Dana Cimilluca, Cara Lombardo and Tripp Mickle report:

• "It would give Apple access to engineering work and talent behind Intel’s yearslong push to develop modem chips for the crucial next generation of wireless technology known as 5G."

• "Apple has been working to develop chips to further differentiate its devices as smartphone sales plateau globally, squeezing the iPhone business that has long underpinned its profits."

• "For Intel’s part, a deal would allow the company to shed a business that had been weighing on its bottom line: The smartphone operation had been losing about $1 billion annually."

What's next: A deal could be announced within weeks. Intel reports quarterly earnings this week; Apple reports next week.

More Apple news, via Bloomberg's Mark Gurman:

• Cook poached another engineer from Tesla.

• Jeff Williams is Cook's heir apparent.

Satya Nadella backs OpenAI

Big in Seattle, big in the Bay: Satya Nadella says Microsoft will invest $1 billion in Sam Altman's OpenAI, providing a massive boost to the company's research in artificial general intelligence, or A.G.I., and the pursuit of a machine that has the same capabilities as the human brain.

The big picture: Microsoft's investment provides a new level of credibility for Altman and his pursuit of A.G.I., which could result in a supercomputer that can master human thinking and human tasks.

• In the nearer term, the deal gives Microsoft a stake in the A.G.I. race and a long-term client and partner. Nadella says OpenAI will eventually develop all of its technology on on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service.

What's next: Altman tells Nadella that A.G.I. "will be the most important technological development in human history," a view he shares with artificial intelligence researchers at Alphabet's DeepMind and elsewhere.

• But as NYT's Cade Metz notes, A.G.I. isn't necessarily near... or even possible. "Most experts believe A.G.I. will not arrive for decades or even centuries," he writes, "if it arrives at all."

🇺🇸 Talk of the Trail 🇺🇸

The Missing Candidate: The New Yorker's Jane Mayer takes a closer look at the accusations against Al Franken, the former Senator and one-time 2020 hopeful, and finds that "almost nothing his accuser said checks out."

What's next: The Minnesota Democrat is about to become a litmus test for the possibility of redemption in the #MeToo era.

Dara Khosrowshahi's Prime

The subscription economy: Uber chief Dara Khosrowshahi "is actively testing a monthly subscription pass that combines rides, Eats, bikes and scooters," effectively pursuing an Amazon Prime-type offering for Uber, TechCrunch's Megan Rose Dickey reports.

• The company is "testing a few different iterations in San Francisco and Chicago... for $24.99 per month," as well as lower-priced passes in other cities.

The big picture: "A challenge in the micro-mobility space is product differentiation and brand loyalty, so this is a smart way for Uber to get customers to fully commit to its multimodal platform."

Bonus: Quartz's Michelle Cheng notes that Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and other vocal critics of Uber and Lyft labor practices continue to use the ride-sharing services.

• Warren's campaign used Uber or Lyft 664 times in the last two quarters, according to FEC filings. Sanders' campaign used the services 278 times.

Market Links

Mark Begor will pay $700 million for Equifax data breach (CNBC)

Satya Nadella reaches a $16 million settlement with SEC (Bloomberg)

Joe Simons wanted to impose much tougher fines on Facebook (WaPo)

Jim Bankoff wages a CMS war against the Washington Post (Digiday)

Bob Iger breaks all the box office records with 'The Lion King (THR)

Peggy Siegal loses Hollywood

Talk of Tinseltown: Netflix, FX and Annapurna Pictures have all cut ties with Peggy Siegal, the publicist "who reportedly used her connections to get multi-millionaire and accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein into splashy premieres and parties," Variety's Matt Donnelly and Brent Lang report.

• "Studios sought out Siegal because of her ability to deliver awards-season voters and influencers to their premieres and screenings. ... [Now] there are concerns that journalists and Siegal’s high society connections will be unwilling to attend events that she produces."

Bonus: NYT's Tiffany Hsu looks at how Epstein managed to achieve glowing profiles on sites like Forbes, National Review and HuffPost that never mentioned his 2008 conviction or status as a sex offender.

Leonardo DiCaprio goes high

Talk of the talent: "In an age of pre-branded franchises and social media currency, Leonardo DiCaprio is a Hollywood unicorn, able to gross hundreds of millions of dollars without wearing a cape, wielding a lightsaber or even having an agent," THR's Tatiana Siegel reports.

The big picture: DiCaprio "is arguably the only global superstar left in a film industry in which an interchangeable group of actors regularly suit up in spandex or brandish a lightsaber for the latest billion-dollar earner."

• "Unlike waning megastars like Will Smith, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Downey Jr., DiCaprio sits alone atop the Hollywood pantheon without ever having made a comic book movie, family film or pre-branded franchise."

• "Leo is the franchise. ... DiCaprio has cultivated a brand 'of excellence,' says Sony film chief Tom Rothman, amid an industry where 'brand' these days usually means Marvel, DC or Lucas."

What's next: "After a four-year absence from the big screen following his Oscar-winning turn in 'The Revenant'... DiCaprio returns July 26 with Sony's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,' Quentin Tarantino's adults-only interpretation of the Manson murders.

🏈 What next: Forbes is out with its annual list of the world's 50 most valuable sports teams. The big picture: There was only one pro sports team worth more than $2 billion in 2012. Now there are at least 50, including almost every NFL team.

See you tomorrow.