Every Key Player You Need To Know In SM Entertainment’s Ongoing Feud

There are three new players who could soon become very important.

SM Entertainment is currently embroiled in a battle for who will control the direction of the prominent entertainment company.

Until recently, SM Entertainment founder Lee Soo Man held the majority of shares in the company, but as SM Entertainment pursues SM 3.0 (the next step in the entertainment company’s advancement), the current co-CEOs decided to sell a large portion of shares without consulting Lee Soo Man. The SM Entertainment founder has since sold his shares to HYBE, evoking mixed reactions from everyone involved, including SM Entertainment employees, idols, and netizens.

Here are the key players you need to know to understand this ongoing feud.

1. Lee Soo Man

Lee Soo Man is the founder of SM Entertainment. In 2010, Lee Soo Man resigned from his position as a member of the company’s board of directors but maintained his involvement as an executive producer and the largest shareholder in the company, holding 18.73% stock as of December 2020. However, in September 2020, SM Entertainment released a statement on the possible early termination of its production service contract with Lee Soo Man’s company, Like Planning.

Lee Soo Man | SM Entertainment

Although there was talk in 2021 of Lee Soo Man selling his stock in SM Entertainment, with the most likely buyers being Kakao, CJ Group, and HYBE, nothing came to fruition. Eventually, Kakao became the second-largest shareholder, securing a 9.05% stake in the company, on February 6, 2023. As Lee So Man’s legal team claimed this sale was made illegally, without consulting him, the founder threatened to file an injunction to block the sale.

Since then, Lee Soo Man has sold his stake to HYBE, making the company the biggest shareholder of SM Entertainment. HYBE clarified that Lee Soo Man would not return to SM Entertainment.

As Lee Soo Man’s decision to sell his shares has been so ill-received, his nephew-in-law Lee Sung Soo has exposed details of how Lee Soo Man allegedly jeopardized SM Entertainment. Lee Soo Man responded to Lee Sung Soo’s video, claiming he felt hurt.

| Newsis

Despite the ongoing battle, Lee Soo Man was recently spotted in public as he gave a keynote speech on K-Pop, the Korean Wave, and his vision for the future planet.

2. Lee Sung Soo

Lee Sung Soo (also known as Chris Lee) is the co-CEO of SM Entertainment and the nephew-in-law of Lee Soo Man. He and co-CEO Tak Young Jun recently released a video explaining their plans for SM Entertainment 3.0. It was met with some backlash from a company executive who believed the plan felt like a “post-Lee Soo Man era.

Lee Sung Soo | NamuWiki

After Lee Soo Man sold his majority stake to HYBE, Lee Sung Soo has been vocal about his disapproval, releasing a video about his criticism of Lee Soo Man’s “alleged mismanagement and greed.” The co-CEO even touched on how Lee Soo Man’s management had even moved one of the company’s artists to tears.

Lee Sung Soo in his video

He then released another video where he pleaded with Lee Soo Man to “stop and beg for forgiveness.” While also calling out HYBE for their “hostile” M&A (mergers and acquisitions), casting doubt on how HYBE chose to enter SM Entertainment, and demanding them to stop, arguing that healthy competition would suit all parties better than HYBE becoming a monopoly.

3. Tak Young Jun

Tak Young Jun is the other current co-CEO of SM Entertainment. Like Lee Sung Soo, Tak Young Jun is against HYBE’s “hostile” M&A of SM Entertainment.

Lee Sung Soo and Tak Young Jun | Yonhap news

Some current SM Entertainment staff members have been very vocal in support of the current co-CEOs, with 208 staff members coming together to make a joint statement supporting Lee Sung Soo and Tak Young Jun’s creative direction and plan for the company. The staff members also voiced their desire to maintain “SM’s unique identity,” not wanting the company to “be subordinate to HYBE’s capitalism.”

4. Park Ji Won

HYBE’s current CEO, Park Ji Won, has been vocal about the misconceptions he believes the public may have around HYBE’s M&A of SM Entertainment. The CEO has expressed that SM Entertainment’s unique color would be preserved and believes that, despite SM Entertainment employees’ concerns, SM Entertainment “will make faster and more groundbreaking achievements through the acquisition.”

Park Ji Won | Daum News

Park Ji Won explained that SM Entertainment would have independent production rights, like HYBE’s sub-labels ADOR, Pledis Entertainment, Source Music, and BigHit Music.

Regarding the concerns that Lee Sung Soo brought up, a HYBE representative explained that their agreement nullified any contract or prior agreement Lee Soo Man may have had with SM Entertainment.

5. Bang Si Hyuk

Bang Si Hyuk is the founder of HYBE, and when HYBE acquired Lee Soo Man’s stake in SM Entertainment, the two released a joint statement about the intent behind the transaction. In the statement, Bang Si Hyuk and Lee Soo Man explained that the goal of the M&A is to “enhance K-Pop’s global competitiveness.

Bang Si Hyuk | @hitmanb72/Instagram

As the face of HYBE, Bang Si Hyuk has been central to much of the current news of the M&A, and several news outlets even reported that he and NewJeans‘ CEO Min Hee Jin would be candidates included on the list of directors that will be proposed to join SM Entertainment. However, when the list was submitted, neither was included.

Min Hee Jin | @min.hee.jin/Instagram

6. Lee Jae Sang

Lee Jae Sang was one of the names on Lee Soo Man’s submitted list of directors from HYBE that are being proposed to join SM Entertainment. Reportedly the list of candidates includes seven directors and an auditor. Lee Jae Sang is currently the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of HYBE America.

7. Jung Jin Soo

Jung Jin Soo was also included on the submitted list of directors from HYBE. Currently, Jung Jin Soo serves as HYBE’s CLO (Chief Legal Officer).

8. Lee Jin Hwa

Lee Jin Hwa was also included in the submitted list of directors, which was done by Lee Soo Man since HYBE does not yet have rights in the upcoming meeting, given how recently they purchased the shares. Lee Jin Hwa currently serves as HYBE’s Business Management Lead.

Presumably, HYBE’s decision to fill directorial positions with working-level officials shows respect toward SM 3.0, showing the company’s intent to preserve SM Entertainment’s autonomy and legacy. But the integration of the suggested candidates into SM Entertainment will certainly indicate how the M&A will continue to proceed.

SM Entertainment Share Acquisition