Dr. Dre has come a long way since he helped invent gangsta rap with NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, unofficially confirming that a deal to sell his headphone manufacturing company Beats to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) for $3.2 billion had gone through on fellow artist Tyrese Gibson’s Facebook page. Even though most people know Dre (Andre Young) as a rapper, he hasn’t actually put out an album in years and is more of a producer and businessman than an artist at this point.
Selling Beats to Apple makes last year’s HTC deal look great
Last year Dre decided to buy back HTC’s 50% stake in Beats for $500 million with an investment from the Carlyle Group LP (NASDAQ:CG) so that he and CEO Jimmy Ioving could have more control over the company’s future direction. At the time, Beats claimed to have a 64% market share worldwide in headsets sold for more than $100.
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Dre already has an estimated net worth of $550 million, NBC News reports, so he would only need to own about 15% of Beats in order to cross the $1 billion mark, which seems likely. That would make the Dre not only the richest man in hip-hop, but the genre’s first billionaire. By comparison, Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs has an estimated net worth of $700 million, Jay-Z has a net worth of about $520 million, Cash Money Records co-founder Bryan Williams is worth about $160 million, and 50 Cent is worth about $140 million.
Acquisition out of character for Apple
Buying at a $1 billion valuation last fall and selling for $3.2 billion is clearly a great move for Dre, but Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) decision to spend so much on Beats is more surprising. Part of the reason that Apple has so much cash on hand (some of which it’s now returning to shareholders) is because it has been less aggressive with acquisitions than many other megacap tech companies.
But the strategy of holding onto cash instead of buying growth only prompted an activist campaign from Carl Icahn and some investor discontent, so Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) may have decided that it would shift gears. Buying companies isn’t always a good deal for investors since the new business won’t necessarily beat the cost of equity, but it’s not as obvious of a target as a lot of unused cash.