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SM Entertainment founder Lee looks to the future as company appoints new management

By Yonhap

Published : March 31, 2023 - 22:27

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An undated file photo of the exterior of the headquarters of SM Entertainment in Seoul (Yonhap) An undated file photo of the exterior of the headquarters of SM Entertainment in Seoul (Yonhap)

Lee Soo-man, the founder and former chief producer of SM Entertainment, said Friday he was moving toward the future in a press statement issued ahead of the company's regular shareholders meeting here, where new management was appointed.

"Today marks the end of an era for SM Entertainment, which was named after me," he said in the statement sent to reporters before the meeting began at the company's headquarters in Seoul. Lee did not attend the shareholders meeting.

He said he was "moving toward the future" despite many criticisms of his dream and that K-pop "needs to evolve into global music."

He also emphasized the importance of combining technology and music to contribute to a sustainable world.

Lee, known as the godfather of K-pop, had a significant influence on managing and training the company's K-pop artists, such as Super Junior, Girls' Generation, SHINee, Red Velvet, EXO, NCT and aespa, before he got into disputes with the company's management over various issues.

He sold his 14.8 percent stake in SM to Hybe, the K-pop company behind BTS, in February after the management announced new business strategies, severing ties with the founder.

In the statement, Lee said he made the trade because he and its chairman, Bang Si-hyuk, shared the same values about combining a sustainable world and music.

However, an intensified weekslong battle with tech giant Kakao Corp. to take control of SM led Hybe to give up its bidding, opening the way for Kakao to become its largest shareholder and expand its entertainment business further.

The shareholders meeting was originally expected to see intense competition between candidates for the next management team proposed by both Hybe and SM's current management. However, as Hybe bowed out of the bid, candidates picked by the current management were appointed.

SM said CFO Jang Cheol-hyuk was named new CEO. Earlier in the day, Jang, Kim Ji-won, head of the marketing center, and Choi Jung-min, head of the global business center, were elected the company's new inside directors.

Jang will now lead the company's "SM 3.0" future strategies centered on establishing multiple production centers and labels, SM said.

Jang, 48, is a certified public accountant who had been CFO of cosmetics firm Skinfood before joining SM in March last year.

"It is with a great sense of responsibility that I'm taking the position as CEO, just as SM prepares for a new beginning," Jang said. "I will do my best to establish healthy and transparent governance, so that SM will reemerge as a global entertainment firm with a focus on fans and shareholders."

Jang is replacing two co-CEOs, Lee Sung-soo and Tak Young-joon.