Scooter Braun has become the sole CEO of HYBE America, Variety has confirmed. He had previously shared the co-CEO title with Lenzo Yoon, a veteran of Big Hit (HYBE’s former corporate name) who joined the South Korean company — home to K-pop sensations BTS — in 2010 as head of strategic planning. At HYBE, Yoon was tasked with “localizing the K-pop business model in the U.S. music industry,” per a 2021 announcement.
Braun’s Ithaca Holdings merged with HYBE in April 2021 giving the company a 100% stake in Ithaca and its properties, which includes SB Projects and management clients Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato, among others, as well as Big Machine Label Group. With the merger, Braun joined the board of HYBE and retained the CEO title for its American business. Bang Si-Hyuk, who founded Big Hit in 2005, stepped down from the CEO post in July 2021 and remains chairman.
That handed a seemingly bigger role to Yoon, who was instrumental in building the fanbase of BTS. Yoon (full name Yoon Seok Joon) became Global CEO in May 2020, prior to the company launching its IPO on the stock market in Seoul. He then became CEO of HYBE America in July 2021. The stateside role earned him a place (alongside Bang and Braun) on Billboard’s 2022 Global Power list. HYBE has not indicated what Yoon’s future role might be. And it has not responded to Variety’s enquiries.
The billion-dollar Ithaca-HYBE deal resulted in big paydays for Braun’s employees and clients, including SB Projects president Allison Kaye, Grande, Bieber and J Balvin. A commitment of $50 million from the purchase price was committed to acts and employees who have been with Braun since he started SBP in 2007. Bieber and Grande received 53,557 apiece — translating to roughly $10 million each — while Balvin received 21,423 shares. Demi Lovato was allocated 5,355. Smaller slices of the pie were parceled out to other artists on the label’s roster, such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Asher Roth, as well as producer Andrew Watt, Migos rapper Quavo, producer Tommy Brown and songwriter Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, among others. Kaye, meanwhile, received a hefty 26,778 shares — good for $5 million.
Elsewhere in the Braun empire, Bieber just sold his music rights to Blackstone-backed Hipgnosis Songs Capital for north of $200 million in a deal that includes Bieber’s shares of his publishing and recorded-music catalog, Bieber’s interest in his publishing copyrights (including the writer’s share of performance), master recordings and neighboring rights for his entire back catalogue, comprising over 290 titles released before December 31, 2021.
Though BTS is HYBE’s major client, the company and its subsidiaries are also home to popular K-pop acts Tomorrow x Together, Enhyphen, Seventeen and more. HYBE also recently debuted a K-pop girl group in May 2022, Le Sserafim, in a partnership with Source Music. With the October release of their second EP, “Antifragile,” the group became the fastest female K-pop act to debut on the Billboard 200.
HYBE increased its revenue growth in 2022, making over $1 billion dollars, which puts it in the league of a mini-major label. So far this year, its stock is up 10%, though down 31% when compared to its performance over the past year. As of January, HYBE has a market cap of $6.25 billion, though that’s down from a high of $12.1 billion at the end of 2021.
When BTS announced its “hiatus” in June 2022, HYBE stock dropped 28%, which is equal to a decrease of $1.7 billion in market value. However, HYBE soon released a statement backpedaling on the word “hiatus,” claiming the word had been mistranslated in the group’s Korean-language announcement. “BTS are not taking a hiatus. Members will be focusing more on solo projects at this time,” the statement said.
That has proven to be true, with members RM and J-Hope both releasing solo projects since the announcement. The group is also due for military service, and will therefore be temporarily inactive but is “looking forward to reconvening as a group again around 2025 following their service commitment,” label Big Hit Music said in a statement.
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