Director behind NewJeans attempted to 'seize management control,' HYBE says

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin, far right, and girl group NewJeans pose for a selfie while shooting the music video for "Attention" in Spain. [MIN HEE-JIN]

HYBE, the K-pop powerhouse behind BTS and NewJeans, initiated a probe against executives of its affiliated agency ADOR, including CEO Min Hee-jin, for an alleged attempt to seek independence.

The conglomerate's audit team visited the offices of ADOR label to retrieve data on Monday morning and begun efforts to obtain related statements, according to media reports.

A HYBE spokesperson confirmed that the company had “launched an investigation into ADOR executives due to suspicions of attempting to seize management control” of the subsidiary.

ADOR, established in 2021, was the first independent label wholly formed under HYBE, which has been working to expand its artist lineup with a multilabel setup. It previously co-established Belift Lab with CJ ENM in 2019 and has acquired labels including Source Music, Pledis Entertainment and Koz Entertainment.

Min joined HYBE, then Big Hit Entertainment, in 2019. She'd previously served as visual director for SM Entertainment, the label behind K-pop big names such as Girls’ Generation, Red Velvet, SHINee and EXO.

Min was appointed to lead ADOR in July 2022 and successfully launched girl group NewJeans the following year, releasing series of hit songs such as “Attention,” “Ditto” (2022), “Hype Boy” and “OMG” (2023).

HYBE has 80 percent stake in ADOR. Min and other executives are believed to hold remaining 20 percent stake.

But the relationship between HYBE and ADOR has soured since Belift Lab’s ILLIT came on to the scene, industry insiders said.

ADOR reportedly objected to ILLIT’s concept and theme, claiming that they overlapped with those of NewJeans.

If Min were to split off from HYBE, NewJeans' scheduled activities for the rest of this year could be thrown up in the air.

NewJeans is scheduled to debut in Japan on June 21 with singles “Supernatural” and “Right Now” and to hold a fan meet and greet at Tokyo Dome between June 26 and 27. The group is preparing to release a new album in the latter half of 2024 and to embark on a world tour next year.

ADOR, meanwhile, has plans to launch a boy band. The label accepted online applications globally between March and April of last year.

After the news of Min’s attempted departure, HYBE’s shares plummeted 7.81 percent to close at 212,500 won ($154.05) on Monday.