(10-20-2005) Rock star, envoy, venture capitalist - The Guardian* - U2 Feedback

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Old 10-20-2005, 09:11 AM   #1
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(10-20-2005) Rock star, envoy, venture capitalist - The Guardian*

Rock star, envoy, venture capitalist

By Oliver Burkeman

It has probably not escaped your notice that Bono is a man on a mission. The best-known part of this, of course, involves saving humanity, but even a saviour of the human race needs a hinterland. Hence the second part - "creating significant opportunities for sophisticated investors". This rather more conventional, suit-and-tie-wearing ambition is revealed in the mission statement of Elevation Partners, a venture capital company co-founded last year by the U2 frontman.

This week, Elevation announced that it was bidding for Boosey & Hawkes, the 200-year-old music publisher, which is on sale for £130m. Rock megastars are supposed to make millions before they can handle it, fritter most of it away on yachts and jets and private islands, lose the rest to corrupt accountants and managers, then find solace in expensive drug problems. What does Bono think he's doing?
It is easy to see what's in it for Elevation, which plans to invest its $1.8bn in committed funds in media and entertainment firms. Bono opens doors: not all that many people are on first-name terms with George Bush and Tony Blair (although, admittedly, when your name is Bono, first-name terms are really the only viable ones). "He can ring anybody," says an old friend of the band. "Not only is he friends with [Apple founder] Steve Jobs, he's friends with Bill Gates."

As for what's in it for Bono, the exact financial benefits to the star are unclear - but he insists the motivation goes deeper than that. Elevation "is for me a chance to involve myself in the business that runs my life," he told the French journalist Michka Assayas. "I don't want to be a casualty. I don't want to be bullied by the business in the future."

Many musicians position themselves as anti-establishment outsiders, but Bono's declared belief has always been that it might be possible to change the system from the inside - much to the disdain of some figures in the rock'n'roll aristocracy. "He thinks: this is how it is. Now let's see if we can change it, instead of throwing stones at it," the friend says.

Depressingly, perhaps, for fans of rock excess and bitter squabbles over money, U2 turn out to have a history of financial savvy to induce envy in the sharpest City investor. We're not just talking about the special-edition U2 iPod, either. Early on, for example, the band purchased its own publishing company, avoiding the kind of situation in which Paul McCartney found himself, with Michael Jackson owning the publishing rights to many Beatles songs. "He thinks that if you're doing business, you should do it well," says the friend. "People in that whole culture are often either sniffy about money, or a bit flash - U2 are neither."

If this all sounds a bit corporate - well, it is. U2 are as much a company as a band. (At one point, the legend always had it, they were the second-biggest employer in Ireland after Guinness.) Thus Bono: simultaneously the chief executive of the corporate rock world, and a revolutionary committed to transforming capitalism in favour of the disadvantaged. And all without the benefit of a surname. Pull your socks up, Dido.


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Old 10-20-2005, 11:40 AM   #2
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Bono is a very smart, intelligent&clever man!
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