Music

NewJeans Label CEO to Remain in Role After Court Blocks HYBE’s Plan to Dismiss K-Pop Exec

A Seoul court has barred K-pop giant HYBE from dismissing Min Hee-jin as CEO of its ADOR subsidiary label following HYBE’s internal audit and subsequent police report against the executive last month. The decision will keep Min in her role as CEO, by extension allowing her to stay in control of the label’s sole artist, girl group NewJeans.

As Bloomberg cites from local Korean coverage, “The Seoul Central District Court said HYBE’s evidence and rationale were not sufficient to back the company’s case for Min’s dismissal.” Despite HYBE’s 80% stake in ADOR (where Min has an 18% stake, with the last 2% retained by other executives), the company cannot vote to dismiss Min, which it was expected to do at a company shareholder meeting scheduled for Friday (May 31).

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“We urge HYBE to respect the court’s decision,” Min’s attorney said in a statement, per Bloomberg. If Hybe takes any action to remove Min from her position as CEO, it will be in direct violation of the shareholders’ agreement.” The legal reps expressed the hope that Min’s leadership team at ADOR would also stay intact.

In its own statement, HYBE acknowledged the court’s decision and said it would not utilize its voting rights but vowed to “follow up within the framework of the law.” The company noted that the court admitted Min had sought ways to weaken HYBE’s control over ADOR — efforts that could have led to Min independently running ADOR, taking NewJeans out of the HYBE system or pressuring HYBE to sell its shares in the subsidiary label. The company says it still plans to pursue its breach of trust case after finding “substantial evidence to prove that Min deliberately led the plan to take over management control of the subsidiary.”

In the meantime, the 2023 Billboard Women in Music honoree will be able to continue directing NewJeans following ADOR’s release of two new singles from the group: “How Sweet” and “Bubble Gum.” The group’s debut Japanese single, “Supernatural” — which reportedly reinterprets a ’00s Pharrell single — is set to drop in June.

Despite the court ruling, the ongoing K-pop power struggle is hardly resolved, and in fact has only widened since HYBE’s initial audit in April.

Following HYBE’s request for her to exit her role as ADOR CEO, Min held an emotional two-hour press conference in which she detailed her concerns and struggles with other teams in the HYBE LABELS system. As The New York Times Seoul reporter Jin Yu Young noted in her report, Min’s “pushback against HYBE and its founder, Bang Si-Hyuk, has resonated widely in South Korea, where corporate life can be punishingly hierarchal.”

Last week, HYBE label BELIFT LAB announced it had submitted a letter of complaint for obstruction of business and defamation against Min stemming from Min’s claims that BELIFT girl group ILLIT had copied NewJeans music, style and creative concept. The conflict has also involved the parents of NewJeans members, who have voiced worries about Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin and Hyein’s reputation and treatment in a letter.

The court order follows last Friday’s release of new material from NewJeans and fellow HYBE artist RM, both of whom will likely make substantial bows on the Billboard charts next week.

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