Following a court order that documents be unsealed regarding the ill-fated partnership between Apple and sapphire crystal glass maker GT Advanced, a number of interesting anecdotes surrounding the tumultuous relationship have been exposed. In an unedited affidavit, GT Advanced COO Daniel Squiller claimed that Apple used a classic “bait-and-switch” strategy to secure its deal with the now-bankrupt supplier.
Apple originally offered GT Advanced what appeared to be a lucrative deal for the supplier last fall, agreeing to purchase 2,600 furnaces to grow sapphire crystal glass for its future products — rumored to start with the iPhone 6.
The terms of the contract, however, changed significantly over time and eventually shifted all economic risk to GT Advanced and placed Apple under no obligation to purchase any sapphire glass from GT Advanced.
“In hindsight, it is unclear whether Apple ever intended to purchase any sapphire furnaces from GTAT. Indeed, after months of extensive negotiations over price and related terms, Apple demanded a fundamentally different deal: Apple no longer wanted to buy furnaces from GTAT; instead, Apple offered an arrangement that required GTAT to borrow money from Apple to purchase furnace components and assemble furnaces that would be used to grow sapphire for Apple. The new structure, as a contract matter, shifted all economic risk to GTAT, because Apple would act as a lender and would have no obligation to purchase any sapphire furnaces, nor did it have any obligation to purchase any sapphire material produced by GTAT. At the same time, Apple constrained GTAT from doing business with any other manufacturer in or supplier to the consumer electronics market, subject to extreme penalties—styled as “liquidated damages”—GTAT failed to meet any of Apple’s requirements.”
Ultimately, GT Advanced recognized the potential problems with this new deal and was told by Apple to “put on your big boy pants and accept the agreement” like other suppliers the iPhone maker works with.
“When GTAT’s management expressed obvious concerns to Apple regarding the deal terms during the contract negotiations, Apple responded that similar terms are required for other Apple suppliers and that GTAT should: ‘Put on your big boy pants and accept the agreement’,” wrote Squiller.
The full-length affidavit goes on to reveal in more detail about how Apple was very controlling over GT Advanced, resulting in the partnership not being profitable:
“Even if this business transaction worked exactly as contemplated in the original agreements, GTAT would not earn any income at all unless Apple opted to ‘buy’ sapphire material in excess of loan ‘repayment’ obligations. By failing to compensate GTAT for losses associated with the development of the technology due to Apple’s constant interference over which GTAT had little or no control, including losses caused by Apple’s changes in product specifications, GTAT was forced into the role of a ‘captive’ supplier to Apple, bearing all of the risk and all of the cost, including the costs of more than 1,300 temporary and permanent personnel, utilities, insurance, repairs, and raw materials. Indeed, the total cost incurred by GTAT pursuant to the project with Apple has so far amounted to approximately $900 million.”
The full-length affidavit filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Hampshire is embedded below:
The unsealed confidentiality agreement between Apple and GT Advanced also reaffirms the strict measures that Apple takes to prevent leaked information: