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Who are the key players at Hybe in the post-Bang Si-hyuk era?

(From top left, clockwise) Hybe Chairman and Founder Bang Si-hyuk, Hybe CEO Park Ji-won, Hybe CBO Min Hee-jin, Hybe Japan CEO Han Hyun-rock, Hybe America co-CEO and Chairman of Ithaca Holdings Scooter Braun and Hybe America co-CEO Lenzo Yoon (Hybe)
(From top left, clockwise) Hybe Chairman and Founder Bang Si-hyuk, Hybe CEO Park Ji-won, Hybe CBO Min Hee-jin, Hybe Japan CEO Han Hyun-rock, Hybe America co-CEO and Chairman of Ithaca Holdings Scooter Braun and Hybe America co-CEO Lenzo Yoon (Hybe)
On July 2, K-pop juggernaut Hybe announced it was reshuffling the company’s topmost personnel in an effort to vitalize its global operations.

Most notably, founder Bang Si-hyuk stepped down as CEO to focus on production. Replacing him is Park Ji-won, formerly CEO of Hybe’s headquarters.

Hybe also introduced new leadership at its headquarters in South Korea, the US and Japan, ushering in a new era for the entertainment conglomerate.

Here’s a brief look into the new leadership at Hybe and its affiliates.

Hybe Chairman and Founder Bang Si-hyuk (Hybe)
Hybe Chairman and Founder Bang Si-hyuk (Hybe)

Bang Si-hyuk, chairman and producer of Hybe

After stepping down as CEO, Bang, 49, will focus on his producer role, which is how he began his career in the industry.

Having produced music for singer-producer Park Jin-young since 1997, Bang co-founded JYP Entertainment with Park in 2001 and stayed there until 2005. During that time he produced major hits for big-name artists such as g.o.d, Wonder Girls, 2AM and Rain.

In 2005 he founded Big Hit Entertainment, now known as Hybe, and in June 2013 he made K-pop history by launching BTS. As a songwriter, Bang has contributed to numerous BTS songs, including “Dope,” “Fire,” “I Need You,” “Blood Sweat & Tears,” “DNA,” “Mic Drop” and “Spring Day.”

As talented as the band members are, Bang played a major role in BTS’ success. In recognition of his efforts, Bang was crowned best producer at major year-end music awards in 2016 and 2017 and received a presidential citation for his contributions to cultural exchange with the global success of BTS.

Under Bang’s leadership, Big Hit aggressively expanded as a company, acquiring smaller labels and launching new business units related to K-pop and entertainment. After marking a record-high sales figure of 35.2 billion won ($30.6 million) in 2016, the company saw those numbers escalate steeply every year and posted an astonishing 587.2 billion won in sales for fiscal year 2019.

The following year, Bang hit the jackpot when he succeeded in listing the company on the nation’s main bourse, the Kospi. Bang is the company’s biggest shareholder, owning a 34.7 percent stake as of June.

He remains board chairman at Hybe and is expected to stay involved in its major decisions. 

Hybe CEO Park Ji-won (Hybe)
Hybe CEO Park Ji-won (Hybe)

Park Ji-won, CEO of Hybe

Park Ji-won, 44, joined Hybe in May 2020 as the CEO of its headquarters. Before that, he was the chief executive officer of Korean gaming publisher Nexon.

Since starting his career at Nexon in 2003, Park had held various critical leadership positions, including head of operations and planning for Nexon Japan, chief executive of Nexon Korea and global chief of Nexon Japan.

While at Nexon Japan, Park was recognized for his success in getting the firm listed on the Japanese stock market in 2011. After becoming CEO of Nexon Korea in 2014, Park was credited for expanding the company’s game lineup and maintaining a stable surplus both in the domestic and overseas markets. He also transformed the stiff corporate culture, establishing a flexible environment to bring out the employees’ creativity.

With his quick mind and accurate judgment in reading the market, Park has also brought about big changes in Hybe over the last year or so. According to Hybe, Park has focused on restructuring the company in light of its sprawling growth.

As the new CEO, Park will be in charge not only of Hybe’s business strategies, but of the operations of the group as a whole.

During his speech at the Next Rise 2021 forum on June 29, Park said the era of virtual content was only just beginning and the entertainment industry was about to undergo phenomenal expansion.

“It will be hard to take the advantage against a new player in the market if we limit the competition in a narrow scope,” he said. “While maintaining our grounds in the music business, Hybe will seek new opportunities through achieving both competition and cooperation in all fields of the entertainment and lifestyle industries.”


Hybe America co-CEO Lenzo Yoon (Hybe)
Hybe America co-CEO Lenzo Yoon (Hybe)

Lenzo Yoon, co-CEO of Hybe America

Helming Hybe’s business unit in the US is Lenzo Yoon, Korean name Yoon Seok-jun, who has been named as Hybe America’s co-CEO along with Ithaca Holdings executive Scooter Braun.

Since joining Big Hit in 2010 as the head of strategic planning, Yoon, 43, has played a significant role in the company’s business operations and planning, laying the foundation for the company’s advancement in the entertainment industry.

Yoon found the way to enhance the experience of fans -- the company’s core customers -- by diversifying the business. According to Hybe, it was Yoon who predicted the importance of in-house content for a K-pop label to compete in the ever-flourishing market.

After being named co-CEO of Big Hit Entertainment in 2019, Yoon began focusing on developing high-value-added products, content and services, and he strategically spun off Big Hit subsidiaries to enable each business to grow.

As global CEO, Yoon worked on expanding Hybe’s business overseas by strengthening its global networks. Hybe has made several significant moves this year, including inking a strategic partnership with Universal Music Group to launch a new K-pop act in the US and acquiring American media giant Ithaca Holdings. Consequently, along with Bang, Yoon was named one of Billboard’s Indie Power Players of the year this past June.

According to Hybe’s announcement, Yoon will take charge of the localization of Hybe’s K-pop business model in the US and will operate Hybe America together with Braun. He will oversee the training, production and marketing process through which new talent is discovered. 

Hybe America co-CEO and Chairman of Ithaca Holdings Scooter Braun (Hybe)
Hybe America co-CEO and Chairman of Ithaca Holdings Scooter Braun (Hybe)

Scooter Braun, co-CEO of Hybe America

With Yoon, American music mogul Scooter Braun will lead Hybe America. Braun will focus specifically on solidifying Hybe’s presence in the US music industry.

Braun, real name Scott Samuel Braun, became part of the Korean entertainment conglomerate in April when Hybe America merged with Ithaca Holdings in a deal worth nearly $1 billion. The Hybe subsidiary gained complete ownership of Ithaca Holdings and its affiliates, which include SB Projects and Big Machine Label.

With Ithaca Holdings overseeing a range of services in the US, the deal meant a breakthrough for the K-pop powerhouse into the American music market.

During an April interview with Variety magazine, Braun said, “This will be the first time Hybe’s groundbreaking systems and curation will be integrated in the US market at the onset of an artist’s career. Global opportunities for artists become exponential with this partnership. This is an opportunity for us to make history and further innovate the music industry and revolutionize the game itself.”

According to Hybe, Braun will continue to oversee Ithaca Holdings, now a subsidiary of Hybe America, as its chairman, while cementing Hybe America’s competitiveness in the stateside market.


Hybe Japan CEO Han Hyun-rock (Hybe)
Hybe Japan CEO Han Hyun-rock (Hybe)

Han Hyun-rock, CEO of Hybe Japan

Taking the lead at Hybe’s regional headquarters in Japan is Han Hyun-rock, former CEO of Hybe Solutions Japan.

Hybe credited Han, 38, with setting the foundation for Hybe’s artists to advance into the Japanese market, thanks mainly to his unconventional mindset and entrepreneurship. As CEO of Hybe Solutions Japan, Han’s main responsibility was to expand the K-pop agency’s specialized business units in the local market in the areas of original content, intellectual property, education and games.

While integrating all of its Japanese subsidiaries to establish the local headquarters, Hybe maintained Hybe Japan Labels as a separate entity in line with the company’s philosophy, which stresses the independence and creativity of individual artists and labels.

Under Han’s leadership, Hybe Labels Japan plans to launch a new boy band soon, while localizing Hybe units Label, Solution and Platform for Japan.
 
CI of Weverse Company (left) and Belift Lab (In courtesy of each company)
CI of Weverse Company (left) and Belift Lab (In courtesy of each company)

Kim Tae-ho, chief operations officer of Hybe

Hybe’s newly appointed chief operations officer is Kim Tae-ho, the company’s former chief growth officer.

Kim is an expert in marketing for IT businesses, having been affiliated with the nation’s major tech companies, Naver and Daum (now Kakao), before he co-founded a carpool startup called Poolus in 2016. He joined Hybe in 2019 as chief executive of Belift Lab, a joint venture label created by CJ ENM and Hybe to discover new K-pop talent through the 2020 Mnet survival show “I-Land.”

Kim also remains the CEO of Weverse, a Hybe subsidiary that manages a mobile fan community and an e-commerce platform.


Lee Jae-sang, chief operations officer of Hybe America

Lee Jae-sang, who played a central role in the acquisition of Ithaca Holdings as the company’s former chief strategy officer, was appointed chief operations officer of Hybe America.

Before joining Hybe in 2018 as chief of staff, Lee had served as manager of global brand campaigns for Hyundai Motor Group and global business manager for Google’s Seoul bureau. He joined Big Hit in 2020 as chief innovative growth officer and was soon promoted. He planned long-term survival strategies for Hybe in the global market, including the successful buyout of Ithaca Holdings.

In his new role, Lee will focus on maximizing synergy between the firm’s business structure and Ithaca Holdings.


Lee Jin-hyeong, chief communications officer of Hybe

Formerly chief operations officer, Lee Jin-hyeong has taken on the role of chief communications officer on the strength of his excellent background in corporate communications and public relations.

Lee worked for global public relations and marketing agency FleishmanHillard’s Korea branch as a strategic communications and crisis management expert since 2004, before moving to popular mobile e-commerce operator WeMakePrice in 2015 as vice president.

He joined Hybe in 2018, serving on the board of executive directors both at Hybe and at several of its subsidiaries.


Min Hee-jin, chief brand officer of Hybe

Though Min Hee-jin’s role remains unchanged after the latest reshuffle at Hybe, as chief brand officer she was one of the most important players in the evolution of Big Hit Entertainment into Hybe -- and quite possibly in the history of K-pop.

Having started her career at S.M. Entertainment in 2002 as a graphic designer, she’s an industry forerunner.

At S.M., Min led experimental concepts for some of the most popular K-pop groups, including SNSD, SHINee, f(x), EXO and Red Velvet. Min not only directed the designs, but decided on the overall concept for each album -- fashion choices, album covers, posters, symbols and everything else. She even took charge of the photo shoots herself. She later was given the title creative director, or visual director, and planned new albums and promotions for S.M.’s artists.

With such a decisive presence at S.M., she joined its board of directors in 2017.

In 2019, Hybe announced that Min would be joining the company as chief brand officer as it was gearing up to rebrand itself.

“Min Hee-jin is a true leader who brought light to the concept combining ‘visual director’ and ‘planner’ in K-pop,” Bang said at the time. “As a company focusing on content and fans, we feel rejoiced to be joined by such a talented expert leading the industry.”

In March, Hybe unveiled a new corporate identity crafted under Min’s careful direction. This not only included a new name and logo, but a new brand philosophy and a design for the new headquarters.

Min is planning the debut of Hybe’s new girl group.



By Choi Ji-won (jwc@heraldcorp.com)
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