Q: So what really happened at Arista?
A: I came to the end of my contract. But my contract was complicated: I never had a straight employer-employee relationship with [Arista corporate parent] BMG. I was always an equity-owning partner, and I did incredibly well, to the point that the company became worth as much as $3 billion. So when my contract ended, it became very difficult for them to move things forward. I wanted at least the similar kind of ownership that I had before. At first, they came to me with a corporate chairmanship that went beyond Arista, because it fit into their "succession plans."
Q: You're past retirement age, and they offered you a fat promotion. What was wrong with that?
A: It was very flattering, but that's not what I do. I told them: "I'm challenged by running my own company." I started Arista from scratch; that's what I love doing. But contrary to what a lot of people read, BMG always said, "Whatever you do, we want to be your partner."
Q: So all this talk about you being pushed out isn't true?
A: This was never about moving me out of their lives. You don't give someone you're moving out a better deal. That would be folly.
Caption: the 66-year-old label head insists he doesn't program his mind just to kids: "i think of headliners and stars, long-term careers and dazzling talent."
From the December 2000 issue of Details.