In 2017, Japan Display Inc. held a news conference and disclosed it had received orders for its latest liquid crystal displays. It wanted investors to know this because some phone makers were dropping LCD in favor of new display technology.
Apple was among the smartphone makers that had expressed interest in a purchase, The Wall Street Journal confirmed at the time. Mr. Blevins called a top Japan Display executive and accused him of violating Apple's nondisclosure agreement. "Are you stupid?" he said, according to a person familiar with the call.
Apple later demanded that Japan Display pay $5 million for breaching its contract, according to this person. Although Japan Display didn't pay the penalty, it agreed to submit future news-conference materials to Apple before events, another person close to Japan Display said. Apple's contract gave it the right to review the supplier's emails and executives' calendars.
A Japan Display executive described Apple's nondisclosure agreements as "torturous," saying he had never heard of others demanding so much.
The biggest threat to suppliers comes when Apple decides to develop a component internally. The first sign of trouble is when it starts hiring away a supplier's engineers. Mr. Blevins, who can often be seen on Apple's campus with the company's head of semiconductors, Johny Srouji, is the person suppliers turn to when Apple starts poaching talent.
Apple began hiring engineers away from Imagination Technologies Group PLC in 2013. That stoked concern, at the U.K. supplier of technology for graphic processing units, that Apple was going to make its own GPUs to power video and other animations on iPhones, according to former Imagination executives. At Imagination there was a feeling Apple was about to pull the rug out from under it, one former executive said.
When it came time for contract negotiations in 2017, Mr. Blevins delivered the news many anticipated: Apple was working on an independent graphics design and planned to stop paying Imagination royalties, said the former executives.
Imagination Chief Executive Andrew Heath considered this news financially material and told Apple he would need to go public with it. He didn't understand that Mr. Blevins was likely just trying to strengthen Apple's negotiating position, these people said, and Mr. Blevins didn't stop him.
When Imagination went public about Apple's plan, Imagination's share price plunged 70%. Apple challenged Imagination's timeline, saying it had stopped accepting new intellectual property from the chip maker in 2015 and confirming it planned to wind down its licensing agreement.
Imagination, which later was sold to Chinese investors, recently struck a new deal to license patents to Apple. Terms weren't disclosed.
Imagination and Mr. Heath declined to comment.
--Takashi Mochizuki contributed to this article.
Write to Tripp Mickle at Tripp.Mickle@wsj.com