Jay Z is set to become the next big digital music mogul after making a $56m bid for Aspiro, the Scandinavian company behind streaming services WiMP and Tidal.
The bid made by Project Panther, which is indirectly owned by the rapperâ€™s company S. Carter Enterprises, has been recommended to shareholders by Aspiroâ€™s board.
WiMP is a direct rival to Spotify in its native Scandinavia, with a higher-resolution version called WiMP HiFi that was rebranded as Tidal when it launched in the UK and US in October 2014.
The deal will pitch Jay Z into direct competition with Beats Music, the streaming service co-founded by Dr Dre, which was bought by Apple as part of a $3bn acquisition of its parent company Beats Electronics in 2014.
That deal helped Dre top Forbesâ€™ annual Hip Hop Cash Kings list of rapâ€™s richest figures for 2014, with estimated pre-tax profits of $620m, compared to Jay Zâ€™s estimated $60m that year.
Aspiro will sit alongside Jay Zâ€™s other business ventures, which include the Rocaware clothing range, 9IX fragrances, Roc Nation sports agency, Armand de Brignac Champagne and a stake in NBA basketball team the Brooklyn Nets.
In Aspiroâ€™s last public financial statements, it said that WiMP had 512,000 paying subscribers, with 20,000 paying for its more expensive HiFi version that offers higher-quality streams for twice the monthly cost.
According to Aspiro, it began talks with Jay Zâ€™s company in December â€“ the same month that Project Panther was incorporated as a company in the UK. Aspiroâ€™s board has published a press release welcoming the offer.
â€œThe independent bid committee is of the opinion that Panther, indirectly owned by SCE and controlled by Shawn Carter, possesses the proprietary relationships, industry knowledge, as well as economic strength and the necessary commitment in order to realise Aspiroâ€™s strategic plan of expanding the companyâ€™s business and brand globally.â€
Scandinavian media group Schibsted, which owns 75% of the shares in Aspiro in a partnership with retailer Platekompaniet and investment firm Verdane Capital, has already accepted the offer.
â€œAspiro needs substantial expansion capital and a strong and dedicated owner to be able to grow and compete on the global music streaming market,â€ said its chief financial officer Trond Berger.
â€œPanther… has adequate financial resources and a high level of competence in the music industry. Hence, I think they will be a better owner to lift Aspiro and its advanced music streaming service to a new level.â€
News of the potential acquisition vaults WiMP and Tidal into what is shaping up to be a deep-pocketed battle for dominance in the streaming music world in 2015.