Johnny Wright estimates he was the first partner of Justin Timberlake to learn that his star management client had finally recorded new music, in mid-2012. Gary Tobey, CEO of Target's media-buying firm Haworth, was "probably the third or fourth," Wright says.

"We'd been talking for five years now, in anticipation of when Justin would come back to music," Wright says. "For a while it was, 'No bonuses this year, guys.' But the conversation would always end with, 'Let's do something big when Justin's ready to come back.'"

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