Scooter Braun has become the sole CEO of HYBE America, Variety has confirmed. He had previously shared the co-CEO title with Lenzo Yoon, a veteran of Big Hit (HYBE’s former company name) who joined the South Korean company – home of K-pop sensations BTS – in 2010 as head of strategic planning. At HYBE, Yoon was tasked with “localizing the K-pop business model in the American music industry,” according to a 2021 announcement.
Braun’s Ithaca Holdings merged with HYBE in April 2021, giving the company a 100% stake in Ithaca and its properties, which include SB Projects and management clients Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato, as well as Big Machine Label Group, among others. With the merger, Braun joined HYBE’s board of directors and retained the title of CEO for its US operations. Bang Si-Hyuk, who founded Big Hit in 2005, stepped down as CEO in July 2021 and remains chairman.
That seemingly gave a bigger role to Yoon, who was instrumental in building BTS’ fan base. Yoon (full name Yoon Seok Joon) became Global CEO in May 2020, before the company launched its IPO on the Seoul Stock Exchange. He then became CEO of HYBE America in July 2021. The role in the United States earned him a spot (alongside Bang and Braun) on Billboard’s 2022 Global Power list. HYBE has not specified what Yoon’s future role could be. And that has not been responded to Variety‘s questions.
The billion-dollar Ithaca-HYBE deal resulted in large payouts for Braun’s employees and customers, including SB Projects president Allison Kaye, Grande, Bieber and J Balvin. A $50 million pledge of Braun’s personal stock was pledged to acts and employees who have worked at Braun since he started SBP in 2007. Bieber and Grande each received 53,557 — which equates to about $10 million each — while Balvin received 21,423 shares. Demi Lovato was allotted 5,355. Smaller pieces of the pie were handed out to other artists on the label’s roster, such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Asher Roth, as well as producer Andrew Watt, Migos rapper Quavo, producer Tommy Brown, and songwriter Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, among others. Kaye, meanwhile, received a whopping 26,778 shares – worth $5 million.
Elsewhere in the Braun empire, Bieber just sold his music rights to Blackstone-backed Hipgnosis Songs Capital for more than $200 million in a deal that includes Bieber’s shares of his publishing and music catalog, Bieber’s stake in his publishing copyrights (including the writer’s share of the performance), master recordings and neighboring rights for its entire back catalog, consisting of more than 290 titles released before December 31, 2021.
While BTS is HYBE’s largest customer, the company and its subsidiaries are also home to popular K-pop acts Tomorrow x Together, Enhypen, Seventeen and more. HYBE also recently debuted a K-pop girl group in May 2022, Le Sserafim, in collaboration with Source Music. With the October release of their second EP, “Antifragile”, the group became the fastest female K-pop act to debut on the Billboard 200.
HYBE increased its sales growth in 2022 and earned more than $1 billion dollars, placing it in the league of a mini-major label. So far this year, the stock is up 10%, though it’s down 31% compared to last year’s performance. As of January, HYBE has a market cap of $6.25 billion, though that’s down from its high of $12.1 billion at the end of 2021.
When BTS announced its “hiatus” in June 2022, HYBE’s stock fell 28%, equating to a $1.7 billion drop in market value. However, HYBE soon released a statement reverting the word “hiatus”, claiming that the word was mistranslated in the group’s Korean announcement. “BTS doesn’t take a break. Members will focus more on solo projects at this time,” the statement said.
That has proven true, with members RM and J-Hope both releasing solo projects since the announcement. The group is also due for military service and will therefore be temporarily inactive, but “looks forward to reconvening as a group after their tour of duty around 2025,” the Big Hit Music label said in a statement.