Mike Snider, USA TODAY
Beats Electronics executives, President and COO Luke Wood and co-founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine.(Photo11: Beats Electronics)
Apple is set to acquire headphone maker and music company Beats Electronics for a reported $3.2 billion.
The acquisition could be announced as early as next week, the Financial Times reported, based on people familiar with the negotiations. USA TODAY independently confirmed the talks through a source who is not authorized to speak publicly about it.
If consummated, Apple’s purchase of Beats could represent the company’s largest acquisition ever. Apple and Beats declined to comment on the report.
Music mogul Jimmy Iovine and producer-rapper Dr. Dre co-founded Beats Electronics seven years ago and launched the high-end headphones craze. Earlier this year,they launched Beats Music, a premium music-streaming service.
Should the acquisition go through, it would be ironic in a way. Dre and Iovine came up with the idea for Beats by lamenting the decline in sound quality ushered in by Apple’s own iPod and the MP3 era.
“For convenience and speed, everyone sacrificed sound,” Iovine told USA TODAY three years ago. “The emotion of the music is almost unrecognizable to what is recorded in the studio,” said Iovine, who is the chairman of Interscope/Geffen/A&M records.
The two set out to market headphones that reproduce, Iovine said, “as close to the sound I hear in the studio as possible.”
They introduced the original $300 Beats Studio model in 2008 and since then, Beats has expanded its lineup to include other headphones with the help of Lady Gaga, LeBron James and Justin Bieber, as well as portable speakers and even music-processing technology for cars, computers and smartphones.
In launching Beats Music in January, Iovine told USA TODAY that “with the headphones, we hit an emotional chord with hardware. Now, it’s all about completing a circle and giving people the full experience of music.”
This would be Beats second go-round with a phone maker. Electronics maker HTC bought half the company in 2011 for $300 million, and Beats Audio was introduced to cellphones. Last year, Beats bought back all of HTC’s share of the company and got a reported $500 million investment from The Carlyle Group.
The report was met with mixed responses on Twitter Thursday night. Buzzfeed business editor Peter Lauria tweeted, “Ouch..9 months ago, HTC sold its stake in Beats for $265 million..now Apple is going to buy Beats for $3.2 billion.”
GigaOm founder and True Ventures partner Om Malik tweeted: “Google spends $3.2 billion to buy the future & data. Apple buys bad headphones & a junk-service from music promoters. Worse use of corp $$$s.”