Noel Lee says he built the headphones Apple paid $3 billion for. His take? $0. Now he’s suing for his share.
The most fateful product test of Noel Lee’s career took place in 2007 on a sunny day in Santa Monica, Calif. Starting in a proverbial suburban San Francisco garage, Lee had built a successful company called Monster that made and sold high-end speaker cables. In the mid-Aughts, he decided consumers would part with a couple hundred dollars for a more stylish set of headphones. After burning through millions of R&D dollars, Lee finally got a meeting in the office of entertainment magnate Jimmy Iovine, co-founder of Interscope Records. Joining Iovine was his business partner Andre Young, better known as Dr. Dre, the rap pioneer and a mogul in his own right. It would be difficult to identify a duo whose influence on popular culture in the 1990s exceeded that of Iovine, collaborator with everyone from Bruce Springsteen and U2 to Eminem, and Dre, a member of the seminal hip-hop group N.W.A., known for such anthems of black anger as F— tha Police.