Music

HYBE Begins Audit of NewJeans’ Label ADOR, Asks CEO Min Hee-Jin to Step Down

While HYBE has successfully expanded into an entertainment powerhouse built around its multi-label structure, the Korean corporation says it has investigated one of its crown jewel agencies, ADOR, the home of chart-topping girl group NewJeans.

Since its launch in late 2021, ADOR (an acronym for the phrase All Doors One Room) has been led by Min Hee-jin, a veteran creative in the K-pop industry who famously helped develop the scene’s penchant for artistic concepts and craft era-defining K-pop acts like Girls’ Generation, SHINee, f(x), EXO and Red Velvet during her tenure at SM Entertainment. After Min’s exit from SM, she joined then–Big Hit Entertainment in 2019 as chief brand officer and helmed the company’s rebrand into HYBE. During the 2021 rebrand reveal, HYBE announced Min as CEO of a new label, ADOR, with plans to debut the girl group that would become NewJeans.

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Earlier this month, a report by Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service revealed that Min controlled an 18% stake in ADOR since late last year. HYBE previously had complete control of the label but now boasts 80%, with an additional two percent owned by other company executives. HYBE reportedly invested 16.1 billion won (about $11.7 million) to establish ADOR.

Less than two years into NewJeans’ history-making debut, HYBE is asking Min to step down from ADOR after an audit of her, the label and its executives.

HYBE confirmed to Billboard that on April 22, the company “invoked the right to audit CEO Min Hee-Jin and top executives of its subsidiary label ADOR.” HYBE said it “called them to summon a shareholder meeting and sent an official letter to ask CEO Min to step down.”  HYBE added that it could not provide further information on reason or reasons for the audit or why it is asking Min to step down.

Since news of the audit went public, ADOR and Min Hee-jin have gone on the offensive in the Korean media.

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In a series of statements, ADOR claims HYBE’s newest act, the five-member girl group ILLIT under another subsidiary, BELIFT LAB, is copying NewJeans. With HYBE founder and current chairman Bang Si-hyuk involved in ILLIT’s debut album Super Real Me (No. 6 on the World Albums chart after three weeks), ADOR claims both BELIFT LAB and HYBE are complicit in the alleged infringement. ADOR says they raised the copycat issue internally a month ago but did not receive answers, claiming now that HYBE’s attempt to remove her as CEO is a result of bringing up the alleged problem. Min gave an additional interview to Korean outlet Sports Ilgan to fire back at rumors she was trying to break ADOR away from HYBE or seek outside investors to go independent with her 18% stake.

Min Hee-jin has not responded to Billboard‘s request for comment.

Min and ADOR quickly spun NewJeans into a slew of record-setting achievements including a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with 2023’s Get Up just a year after the debut, five Hot 100 hits to their name, a well-received live debut in the U.S. at Lollapalooza last year, plus honors like Top Global K-Pop Artist at the 2023 Billboard Music Awards and the first K-pop act honored as Group of the Year for Billboard‘s Women in Music. In 2023, Min earned a spot on Billboard‘s International Power Players and Women in Music executive lists and also collaborated with V of BTS on the overall production of his debut solo album, Layover, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in September.

The K-pop power clash comes as NewJeans prepares for several releases including new singles “Bubble Gum” and “How Sweet,” with the former’s music video scheduled to drop April 26 on the HYBE LABELS YouTube channel. NewJeans is also preparing their first-ever Japanese singles “Supernatural” and “Right Now,” as well as a new album planned for the second half of 2024.

Elsewhere in the HYBE universe, ILLIT’s “Magnetic” is currently at No. 91 on the Hot 100, making it the first debut single from a K-pop act to enter the ranking. New music from HYBE artists like Zico (under HYBE LABELS’ KOZ Entertainment) and SEVENTEEN (PLEDIS Entertainment) are also coming this month. Historically, internal company issues can affect K-pop music or content releases, but no updates have been shared as of press time.

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