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Bang Si-Hyuk Steps Down as CEO of BTS Powerhouse HYBE; Scooter Braun Takes on U.S. Co-CEO Role

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Bang Si-Hyuk is stepping down from his role as CEO of HYBE (formerly known as Big Hit Entertainment) as a part of a major restructuring of leadership at the company that launched BTS, one of the biggest groups in the world. The move is part of a company-wide move to “accelerate global operations,” according to the official announcement released by HYBE Thursday.

Bang will now focus on his roles as chairman of the board of directors, where he will still be involved in decision-making about the company’s core businesses.  he also will focus on music production, which is how he first rose to fame in the 1990s and early 2000s as “Hitman,” helming hits for such artists as g.o.d., Park Ji-yoon, Rain, Wonder Girls and others.

New CEO Jiwon Park will step into Bang’s shoes. He joined HYBE just last May, after roles as the global COO of game publisher NEXON Japan and CEO of NEXON Korea.  Park will focus on “systematizing the broader organization in line with the company’s rapid growth,” as well as oversee strategy and operations.

HYBE America will be operated under two branches of leadership between CEO Lenzo Yoon and CEO Scooter Braun — the latter also runs SB Projects, which manages Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and others, and merged his Ithaca Holdings company with HYBE in a billion-dollar deal. The announcement continues that “Yoon will take the lead on localizing the K-pop business model in the U.S. music industry by supervising the entire process from training, production, marketing, etc. A global audition will kickstart the collaborative effort after the establishment of the joint venture.”

Braun will “take charge in HYBE’s U.S. business operations to establish a solid foothold and enhance competitiveness for HYBE, while continuing to lead Ithaca Holdings,” it continues. That move unveils some of the larger strategy behind the HYBE-Ithaca merger.

Former CSO Lee Jaesang, who “took a central role in the acquisition of Ithaca Holdings,” will relocate to the U.S. as COO of HYBE America, the announcement continues. Lee will focus “on maximizing synergy between HYBE’s business structure and Ithaca Holdings.”

Former HYBE CGO Kim Taeho is currently HYBE’s COO, while ex-COO Lee Jinhyeong is now its chief communication officer, the firm clarified.

Meanwhile, HYBE also announced that it has also spun off its Japan operations into a full-fledged regional headquarters. HYBE Japan was formed via the merging of two previously separate subsidiaries HYBE Solutions Japan and HYBE T&D Japan. It will operate as an independent entity led by CEO Han Hyunrock, the former CEO of HYBE Solutions Japan. It plans to launch a new boy band and facilitate other HYBE artists’ entry and success in the Japanese market.

HYBE praised Han’s “sense and savvy [as a] millennial leader in his 30s.” 

In its statement the company said that more broadly, its restructuring is “the result of our strong will to achieve our mid-term business strategy of becoming a global corporation.” It added, “We have restructured the scope of roles and responsibilities to suit the expertise of each leader so they can aggressively lead and expand in the Korean, the U.S., and Japanese markets.”

In February, while still known as Big Hit, it established an expanded strategic partnership with Universal Music Group. It also disclosed intentions to establish a new JV label to run out of Los Angeles and moves to help UMG artists boost fan interaction via the Korean company’s Weverse digital platform.

Variety reported in April that HYBE America, HYBE’s fully owned subsidiary, would merge with SB Projects (SBP) founder Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in a deal said to be valued at more than $1 billion. Bang told Variety last month: “When we first made the deal with Ithaca Holdings, I thought I was simply acquiring a company. However, as I began having deeper conversations with Scooter, I came to the realization that I was gaining a valuable partner with the deal.”

Korea Exchange-listed Big Hit was founded in 2005 under the shadow of K-pop’s “Big Three” industry titans, SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment. It quickly grew into a formidable rival, however, after its group BTS broke out to global superstar status.

As the company expanded rapidly into other areas, including fan community platforms like Weverse (which follows a social networking model, where artists can share updates with fans, and fans can create content for the artists) and Weply (a commerce platform), Bang spoke with Variety in 2019 about his approach.

“I don’t see myself as a great businessman, but more as a good leader,” he said. “There are certain qualities that a manager should have, whether it’s a drive, or maybe an aggression, but I am fundamentally an artist, and I am not too results- or performance-oriented. ‘Why are we doing this? ‘and ‘What are we doing?’ are questions I ask, and I think this is reflected in our mission statement, ‘Music and artist for healing.’”

Last October, Big Hit went public with a $820 million offering, S. Korea’s largest in three years.

Although most of the company’s revenue remains tied to the boy band, it has been seeking ways to branch out. Big Hit changed its name to HYBE earlier this year, reportedly in order to position itself as a firm that is moving beyond mere artist management to become a more comprehensive lifestyle platform.

Though its shares had fallen in 2020, they have been on an upward trajectory since, despite fluctuations. Its stock price rose 3.25% Thursday to hit 302,000 KRW, ($267) and has risen 14.6% in the past month.