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Ourhome sibling feud reignites over management control

(from left) Koo Bon-sung, former vice president of Ourhome, and Koo Ji-eun, vice president of Ourhome (Ourhome)
(from left) Koo Bon-sung, former vice president of Ourhome, and Koo Ji-eun, vice president of Ourhome (Ourhome)

A sibling feud over Ourhome, a Korean food company, has reignited as Koo Bon-sung, Ourhome’s former vice president and the eldest heir, launched a legal challenge against his sister and Vice President Koo Ji-eun.

Koo Bon-sung and Koo Mi-hyeon, the eldest sister of the Koo family, released a statement Tuesday saying that they have filed a requisition to Seoul Southern District Court to convene a temporary shareholders meeting. They are seeking to pass a vote to appoint 48 new board of directors and fire the current 21 board members appointed by Koo Ji-eun.

According to the statement, the two intend to sell their combined 58.62 percent company shares but claimed Ourhome has refused to cooperate. They have requested data on the investment performance of Hacor, the company’s US-based subsidiary, in a bid to appeal to possible buyers.

“We need neutral board members who will comply with future buyer’s requests,” it said, adding that the two shareholders only seek to be part of the board until the selloff is completed.

But Ourhome blasted Koo Bon-sung for attempting to take control of the firm again through the shareholders meeting.

Refuting Koo’s claim, Ourhome said that the company has been cooperative with the two shareholders.

“We have requested La Defense Partners, the two shareholders’ advisory firm on the matter, for the necessary documents including power of attorney, to start the selloff process, but didn’t receive any of them,” the company said.

Ourhome also criticized Koo for demanding 100 billion won ($79 million) in dividends when the company’s management and staff are working hard to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The court will decide whether to grant the temporary shareholders meeting in three months. If the court disapproves, Koo can still appeal, and the case could drag on.

Industry sources say Koo Ji-eun might try to win back her sister Mi-hyeon, who previously helped her to take the throne.

In 2021, the three sisters -- Mi-hyeon, Myung-jin and Ji-eun -- voted out Koo Bon-sung from his vice president post, on the grounds of his driving scandal and salary overpayment.

But industry insiders say Koo Mi-hyeon ultimately decided to join hands with her brother because she couldn’t receive her share of some 16 billion won in dividends. Koo Ji-eun decided not to pay dividends to shareholders this year although the company turned a profit.

Ourhome separated from the LG Group in 2000. Chairman Koo Ja-hak, who has stepped down from management, is the third son of LG founder Koo In-hwoi and the younger brother of Koo Ja-kyung, LG Group’s honorary president.

By Byun Hye-jin (hyejin2@heraldcorp.com)
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