Lenzo Yoon, one of the key execs behind the rise of BTS, is leaving HYBE (report)

Lenzo Yoon is leaving South Korea-headquartered entertainment giant HYBE at the end of 2024.

That’s according to a report published in South Korea’s Maeil Kyungjae business paper, which reports that the exec’s contract contains a non-compete clause that expires at the end of 2024. The report adds that Yoon will leave the company ‘immediately thereafter’.

The exec most recently held the title of Co-CEO of HYBE America, a role he shared with Scooter Braun until January 2023, when the latter exec became sole CEO of HYBE America.

Lenzo Yoon has been a key exec at HYBE since he joined the company in 2010 as Head of Strategic Planning, and when it was known as Big Hit Entertainment.

He has not held an official title at the company since Braun became sole CEO of HYBE America at the start of last year.

Braun joined HYBE when he sold his company Ithaca Holdings to the K-Pop giant for $1.05 billion in April 2021. He recently stepped aside from artist management after 23 years to focus on his family and his role as CEO of HYBE America.

In February 2023, Braun led HYBE’s acquisition of Atlanta rap powerhouse QC Media Holdings or Quality Control, home to acts such as Lil Baby, Migos, Lil Yachty and City Girls.

Yoon is credited with conceiving the vast in-house fan content side of HYBE’s business which was a key factor behind the rise of the company’s flagship K-Pop act, BTS.

Superfan content continues to form a key part of the company’s strategy.

HYBE runs the Weverse superfan app, which recently attracted investment from Universal Music Group as part of an expanded long-term agreement with HYBE.

Weverse, driven by the content made available to fans via the app like music videos, teasers, movies and live streams, has been a major success story for HYBE. It was cited by Yoon in 2020 as a key factor behind HYBE’s ability to grow its revenues during the pandemic.

The app has since expanded with the addition of artists from SM Entertainment and Universal Music Group, with UMG-affiliated superstar Ariana Grande recently confirmed to be joining Weverse.  According to Weverse, 90% of the 130 artists currently on its platform as of April are signed to labels other than HYBE.

HYBE Chairman Bang Si-hyuk has previously referred to HYBE as a “content powerhouse”. Yoon explained during a speech delivered in March 2021 for SXSW Online why the company initially decided to focus heavily on its content strategy.

Said Yoon: “When BTS was getting ready to debut, the world was becoming digital. We focused on the possibilities of new media, which we knew would become a bigger part of our fans’ lives.

“We thought that in this new environment content will be more important than the brand of the channel. We started to create our own content.

“This content became the link connecting our artists with our fans. Now they loved the world over in many forms, from short clips, variety shows, documentaries, reality shows and more.

Yoon’s LinkedIn bio notes that he “predicted the importance [of] in-house content.”

Yoon was promoted to Chief Business Officer at HYBE in 2018 (eight years after joining the company), before being promoted to co-CEO alongside Bang Si-hyuk in 2019.

He became Global CEO in May 2020 ahead of the company’s stock market debut in South Korea.

Bang Si-hyuk stepped down from his role as CEO of HYBE in July 2021 as a part of a major leadership shakeup at the company, remaining on the Board of Directors as Chairman.

Park Ji-won was then named as CEO of HYBE and since then has overseen HYBE’s overall management strategy and operations.

HYBE confirmed at the time that its US operations would be led by Lenzo Yoon and Scooter Braun as co-CEOs, and said in a statement that its plan would involve “fully transplanting the K-pop business model to the US market”.

In November 2021, HYBE and Universal Music Group‘s Geffen announced a joint venture called the HYBE x Geffen Global Girl Group Audition. The JV saw the companies launch a global talent search for a new girl group. The final six members of the group, called KATSEYE, were revealed in November.

HYBE’s revenue for Q1 2024 reached KRW 360.92 billion (USD $271.57 million at the average exchange rate for Q1), a 12.1 YoY drop, according to the company’s latest earnings report, released on Thursday (May 2).

HYBE has not responded to MBW’s request for comment about Lenzo Yoon’s reported departure from the company.Music Business Worldwide

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