(UPDATED: 1/21 1:05 p.m. EST)
Swizz Beatz, a.k.a Kasseem Dean or Mr. Alicia Keys, was officially listed on Megaupload’s website as its CEO prior to the site’s shutdown, but he hasn’t been implicated in the lawsuit that led to the site’s takedown. In fact, the Atlanta-based rapper’s role in the file-sharing website has come under scrutiny, as its power players seem to be based primarily in New Zealand. The indictment, which was handed down on January 5 and led to the shuttering of Megaupload on January 19, led to seven people being charged and four arrested, including the site’s founder, the oddly-named Kim Dotcom. But why didn’t the feds go after the company’s purported CEO?
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Swizz Beatz’s name and title appeared in the now-defunct About Us page, but that’s about the only set-in-ink connection reports show he seems to have to the company. It’s likely that he was listed in recent weeks after the company’s late 2011 redesign, which saw the company partner with major recording artists, presumably for greater exposure. Beatz is not listed in the indictment as holding any share in Megaupload – Dotcom owned 68 percent, and six other non-celebs owned the rest. In fact, Beatz’s name doesn’t come up at all in the 72-page document. And it was far from Beatz’s primary gig: he also has titles as Reebok’s creative director, KidRobot’s brand ambassador and creative designer for Lotus Cars. If he acted as the CEO of Megaupload, it probably wasn’t a time-consuming job.
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So what, indeed, was Beatz’s role in the company? Perhaps it was simply gaining star power for the brand. In December, Megaupload released a viral commercial featuring music superstars singing the praises of the site – a quizzical move considering Megaupload’s frequent implication in illegal file sharing. But sure enough, the video features the likes of P. Diddy, Will.i.am, Kim Kardashian and, naturally, Beatz’s wife Alicia Keys, proclaiming their “love” for Megaupload. But shortly after the $3 million video gained viral steam, Universal Music Group, the record label that represents Diddy and Kanye West, among others featured in the video, requested the video be removed from YouTube. Why? Not unexpectedly, UMG claimed the artists’ performances were unauthorized. Swizz Beatz and Megaupload fired back at UMG with a counter-suit to stop the label from blocking the video.
As part of Megaupload’s Dec. 9 relaunch, the site was planning a new music venture called Musicbox that would allow artists to sell music directly to consumers, intended to shelve traditional labels. According to TorrentFreak.com, Megaupload’s website was updated mere days ago to reflect Beatz’s CEO title, though, as the page has now been deleted, it’s impossible to verify when Beatz’s name was added. But the feds weren’t fooled, evidently.
As of Friday morning, Beatz had not yet sounded off about the effect of the Megaupload shuttering. The day of the shutdown, he tweeted a fortune cookie, with a caption simply reading “Blessings.”
UPDATE: On Friday, Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken told VentureBeat that Swizz Beatz was not the CEO of the company. “To my knowledge, Swizz Beatz was never involved in any meaningful way,” he said. “He was negotiating to become the CEO, but it was never official.”
UPDATE 2: A spokeswoman for Swizz Beatz told the Wall Street Journal Friday that the musician and producer was named CEO, but that they “were trying to clarify” if the title was valid and determine how he was involved in the company.