In June 2010, Justin Bieber, then a 16-year-old boy wonder, opened the Foxborough, Mass., show on Taylor Swift’s Fearless tour, along with two other acts. That same evening, Scooter Braun, who had discovered Bieber on YouTube and signed him to a management deal three years earlier, first met Scott Borchetta -- who in 2005 had signed a 15-year-old Swift to his then-new label, Big Machine.
“Our stories were similar,” recalls Braun on a recent afternoon, speaking by phone from his office in Santa Monica, Calif. “Everyone at Big Machine -- Taylor was kind, Scott was kind -- everyone was kind to me and Justin when we were doing that show, and you don’t forget those things. I never forgot that, and we started a friendship.”
On June 30, that friendship turned into a blockbuster business partnership: Braun’s Ithaca Holdings acquired Big Machine Label Group and its publishing unit for just over $300 million in a deal backed by The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm that took its first stake in Ithaca in 2017. This time, Swift wasn’t as kind, writing in a Tumblr post that she was “sad and grossed out” by the news that her musical legacy would lie in Braun’s hands, unleashing a social media uproar that ultimately involved stars from Halsey to Bieber himself.