By Matt McCue
June 26, 2014

Rarely has a deal been so scrutinized as Apple’s multibillion-dollar acquisition of Beats Electronics and Beats Music.

Among tech industry analysts, speculation about Apple’s strategy abound. There were proclamations about who won and lost. There were stories about the value of headphones and other wearable devices. There was discussion about how Jobsian the move was. And, of course, much debate over whether Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre were saving Apple (or the other way around).

One thing is for sure: The four major players instrumental in Apple’s acquisition of Beats—Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue, and Beats co-founders Dre and Iovine—have said precious little about Apple’s largest-ever acquisition beyond the deal’s official announcement. But their body language, captured in two official photographs released with the news, may be able to provide clues into how they might work together.

“At least half of all communication is nonverbal, so body language tells us 50% of a message,” says Janine Driver, a body language expert and the author of The New York Times bestseller You Say More Than You Think. “It tells us who has a good rapport, who is connected to who and who exhibits concern.”

We asked Driver, who didn’t know the specifics of the $3 billion deal or the business hierarchy of the four (Cook is the boss of everyone; Dr. Dre and Iovine will report to Cue), to analyze two pictures of the group that were taken the day Apple announced it was buying Beats. Here is her assessment of what their body language said.

Left to right: Iovine, Cook, Dre, Cue. (Courtesy: Apple)

On Tim Cook: “I have an expression: ‘When you grab your chin, you’re about to win,’ Driver says. “This is a Steve Jobs pose—he did this on the cover of his book, but even as a 20-year-old there are pictures of Jobs grabbing his chin. When you grab your chin, it is an anchor to all of the other powerful people who grab their chin—including Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney. But this is interesting. Tim Cook has his left arm across his body, and we often put one arm in front of our body when we are listening. It’s like he’s saying, ‘Go ahead, I’ll give you the stage.’ So Tim Cook is displaying a confident gesture—so confident that he is allowing someone else to have the stage.”

On Dr. Dre: “He is also very confident. All of the guys are doing what is called ‘crotch display,’ by sitting with their legs spread apart, but he is the only one who is keeping their naughty bits completely open. If I had to guess who got $3 billion, I’d say that guy. When we frame human beings [for the camera], we say the people in the middle are the most valuable. It doesn’t mater if it is true; it matters how they are perceived. Tim Cook and Dr. Dre are the two most powerful people here.”

On Eddy Cue: “Dr. Dre and Eddy Cue are mirroring each other, and we mirror people we like and respect. The fact that Cue is going to be Dr. Dre’s boss is very interesting because he is sitting off to the side. It says to me, he is the kind of boss that can let other people be in the limelight and frame others’ success.”

On Jimmy Iovine: “He is literally rubbing the palm of his hand, which is weird to capture a movement like that in a still picture. When you rub the palm of your hand slowly together, it’s like: I’m going to get rich. But while he looks like he knows he is about to get something, he is also doing what I call the “pacifier.” When there is an increase in stress or anxiety, adults take one piece of our body and rub another piece with it.”

Left to right: Iovine, Cook, Dre, Cue. (Courtesy: Apple)

On Tim Cook: “Unless the photographer staged them, the fact that they all are standing in the same order as they were sitting [in the previous photo] says to me that there is a little bit of a chain of command here, and it’s not based on their titles,” Driver says. “Here, we have Tim Cook closed off and giving the power to everyone else.”

On Dr. Dre: “Dr. Dre is the most confident person in the photo. He has that right elbow popped out, which is a ‘Hey boys, look what I have to offer,’ position—massive power.”

On Eddy Cue: “Eddy Cue has one hand behind Dr. Dre’s back, and that indicates they have excellent rapport. Also, Eddy Cue is again allowing Dr. Dre to take center stage, and he’s not threatened by it.”

On Jimmy Iovine: “Jimmy Iovine doesn’t not look like he is in a comfortable pose. His jaw muscles are really tight, which, if anyone is a nervous nelly, I think it would be him.”

On both photos: “I think the overall picture is the players involved have great rapport and that this is a very smart business decision, not only because of the product, but also the connections they have with each other and the open line of connection,” Driver says. “They seem to like each other—and when you like people, you trust them.” However, there’s one caveat. “If there is someone who might be concerned, I would say Jimmy Iovine,” she says. “He is the one that maybe comes across as, ‘I hope we’re doing the right thing.’ ”

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