HYBE’s acquisition of 14.8% SM Entertainment shares from its founder Lee Soo-Man, making it the label’s biggest shareholder, continues to cause friction. SM Entertainment artists’ fans have joined to protest against what they deem a ‘hostile takeover’ to create an entertainment monopoly in South Korea.
On Tuesday, fans of SM Entertainment artists held an LED Truck protest in front of HYBE’s headquarters in Yongsan, Central Seoul. Several messages were posted on the LED Screens, such as “We fans oppose HYBE’s monopoly” and a parody of HYBE’s slogan, “We believe in music,” but replacing it with “money.”
One protestor told the local press that HYBE should’ve asked how fans and artists feel about everything as they are affected by their current actions; however, no conversation is taking place.
Both fans and SM Entertainment staff oppose HYBE’s takeover, as HYBE seeks to buy up to 40% of company shares. HYBE announced its intention to acquire 25% of SM Entertainment for 1,170,652,500,000 Korean Won or 900 million USD.
Last month, 208 SM Entertainment employees created a coalition and released their statement against HYBE’s purchase. The statement read, ” Former chief producer Lee Soo-man has sold his shares to a competitor that he has been belittling and ran away as his illegal tax evasion came to light. We will protect the cultural diversity of K-pop and the unique identity of SM Entertainment. SM Entertainment’s culture cannot be subject to HYBE’s capital.”
CEO Lee Sung Soo also accused HYBE of purchasing the founder’s shares without consulting SM Entertainment. The feud grows larger in scale. In the middle, SM artists’ careers are at stake. On March 31, 2023, a shareholder meeting will be held, and SM Entertainment board members will be appointed.