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May 16, 2021

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Spotify’s Ek sets sights on Arsenal

SPOTIFY’S billionaire CEO Daniel Ek, who revolutionized on-demand music listening for millions of people, is a resilient entrepreneur from a Swedish working-class suburb who now hopes to bring his business acumen to “the beautiful game.”

The 38-year-old, known for his no-nonsense attitude, has offered to buy Premier League club Arsenal amid supporter backlash against unpopular American owner Stan Kroenke.

Ek co-founded Spotify with Martin Lorentzon in 2006, and the company which made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange in 2018 now has a market capitalization of US$56 billion.

Bald, bearded and a casual dresser usually seen in sneakers, T-shirt and a blazer, Ek is known for his reserved style and pragmatism — a shy problem-solver with a creative streak who takes long walks to think things through and who prizes collective teamwork over the individual.

Ek got into computer programming as a young kid, and was a dollar-millionaire by the age of 23 when he sold his online advertising company Advertigo in 2006 for a reported US$1.25 million.

“But he’s more of a businessman than a tech nerd,” said Sven Carlsson, co-author of “The Spotify Play,” painting him as a visionary.

“He’s always thinking six months ahead.

“He’s not into the details. He’s known for having ambitious, lofty goals, with no understanding for how unrealistic they are.

“He thinks big, and he has patience” to see those projects through to fruition.

Ek was raised in Stockholm’s working-class suburb of Ragsved. His father left the family when Daniel was young.

“He’s always had something to prove ... Being left by his dad was a formative experience,” Carlsson said.

Pelle Snickars, co-author of “The Swedish Unicorn: the story about Spotify,” describes Ek as “quite Swedish in terms of values.”

“We don’t see him on magazine covers alongside celebrities, he’s not hierarchical and does not hesitate to showcase his collaborators,” Snickars said.

With around 9 percent of Spotify’s capital and 37 percent of voting rights, Forbes put Ek’s fortune at an estimated US$4.8 billion in April.

In 2006, Ek and Lorentzon came up with the idea of creating a platform to distribute music online legally, a practice that at the time was dominated by illegal file sharing sites.

The duo experimented with sharing mp3 music files between the hard drives on their computers.

In October 2008, Spotify was finally ready to go live after Ek pleaded with music labels to open their catalogues.

“Innovations are never entirely new,” Ek told the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm during a 2013 visit.

“The success comes from combining things that already exist and trying to solve a problem that one is really involved in.”

Carlsson said Ek’s former colleagues nicknamed him “Spice.”

“They thought he always spiced up his stories a little to make them more interesting,” Carlsson said.


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