Bang Si Hyuk Exposes The Hidden Struggles In HYBE’s Pursuit Of SM Entertainment
Bang Si Hyuk, the mastermind behind HYBE, recently opened up about the rollercoaster ride that was HYBE’s attempt to acquire SM Entertainment. In a candid interview with Billboard, he shared the whirlwind of emotions, decisions, and lessons learned during this high-stakes business endeavor.
Rewinding to February, HYBE and SM Entertainment seemed poised to become the ultimate K-pop power couple when Lee Soo Man, the founder of SM Entertainment, offered to sell most of his 15% stake to HYBE. This initiated a chain of events that led to a fierce battle for control over one of Korea’s biggest entertainment companies. But what went down during those intense weeks, and what was going on in Bang Si Hyuk’s mind?
As it turns out, Bang Si Hyuk took a solitary approach to the decision-making process. He holed up in his Seoul residence, cutting off contact with friends outside his inner circle. In a moment of vulnerability, Bang Si Hyuk shared the opposition he faced during the acquisition process. He confessed that his mentors’ reactions when he sought their advice weren’t positive.
To be honest, they opposed the idea.
— Bang Si Hyuk
He also found himself navigating choppy waters within his own company. Bang revealed that aside from his mentors and people whom he looked up to, opposition toward the deal was coming from inside HYBE as well. Despite all this, Bang Si Hyuk remained steadfast in his pursuit, recalculating the pros and cons of the deal and pressing ahead.
I personally tend not to attach too much emotion to business affairs, but there was quite a bit of backlash coming from inside our company, so that was the more challenging part for me.
— Bang Si Hyuk
At the time, Bang Si Hyuk was also wrapping up a massive $300 million deal to acquire Atlanta hip-hop label Quality Control. Juggling negotiations on two continents, he worked tirelessly to balance his commitments to both ventures. Yet, the dream of uniting BTS with K-pop powerhouses like NCT DREAM, SuperM, and aespa under one roof persisted.
It’s worth noting that fans and employees of SM Entertainment were vocal about their concerns regarding the potential acquisition. They feared a lack of diversity within the industry if most artists were under the HYBE umbrella. Former SM Entertainment CFO Jang Cheol Hyuk was also among those who expressed their apprehension, arguing that such a merger could negatively impact K-Pop.
As the battle between HYBE and Korean internet giant Kakao M ensued, the situation escalated. Ultimately, HYBE announced its withdrawal from the acquisition on March 12, paving the way for Kakao to become SM Entertainment’s largest shareholder. By March 24, HYBE confirmed the sale of its entire stake in SM Entertainment to Kakao.
In hindsight, Bang Si Hyuk appears to be at peace with the outcome, stating that he’s “happy with the result.”
Though the merger of HYBE and SM Entertainment would have undoubtedly shaken the K-pop landscape, the dust has settled, and both companies continue to forge their paths independently. With ambitious plans for global expansion and a relentless drive to innovate, it’s clear that the world of K-pop will continue to flourish under the guidance of both of these entertainment giants.