Min Hee-jin demanded right to terminate NewJeans' contract without approval, HYBE says

Members of girl group NewJeans and the girl group's producer Min Hee-jin [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Week two of the family feud between HYBE, the parent, and its subsidiary ADOR: HYBE says that ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin demanded the right to terminate the agency’s contract with NewJeans members as she sees fit. ADOR says such a request was an inevitable means of protecting itself and the band members amid a host of lies and deception — which took place, it alleges, even before the girl group's debut.

Reports surfaced on Thursday morning that NewJeans producer Min had asked HYBE for the right to terminate ADOR’s contract with the five members of NewJeans without approval from its board.

Her request came as part of changes she demanded be made to her shareholder's contract with HYBE on Feb. 16. She also requested that certain clauses regarding her shares of ADOR, which she claimed made the deal a “slave contract,” be fixed, according to her account given in a press conference last week that has since gone viral.

HYBE currently owns 80 percent of ADOR, Min 18 percent and other executives of the label 2 percent.

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin at a press conference on April 25 [NEWS1]

Min holds a put option for 75 percent of her holdings under the current agreement, which allows her to sell it starting this November. Selling the remainder would require HYBE's permission.

Min is not contractually permitted to work for another company until her full stake is sold. HYBE has stated that it would let Min join a competitor a year after quitting ADOR if she first works for the subsidiary for eight full years. Min has not replied to that offer, according to her attorney at Shin & Kim.

“Min requested to HYBE CEO Park Ji-won, in a face-to-face meeting, that she be given the right to make important decisions regarding the contracts [with NewJeans] and other subcontractors,” Shin & Kim said in a news release Thursday. That meeting was held on Jan. 25, according to the law firm.
“It came as a means to protect the independent management rights of the label and resolve the unfair interference [from HYBE] that came during the debut process of NewJeans.”

HYBE chairman Bang Si-hyuk, left, and CEO Park Ji-won [HYBE]

In Min's telling, HYBE promised that NewJeans would be the first girl group under its umbrella but then pushed it aside in order to debut Source Music's Le Sserafim first. Min, per her account, was asked to stay silent about NewJeans during that process in order to help promote Le Sserafim to the public.

HYBE, in response, has said that it postponed NewJeans' debut because Min had asked the conglomerate to establish a separate label for her, which required a lengthy paperwork process.

“HYBE had promised that NewJeans would be the first girl group by Min Hee-jin, and the first girl group from HYBE, ever since the ‘Plus Global Audition,’” Shin & Kim said.

The Plus Global Audition was an audition series held by Source Music and Big Hit Entertainment — HYBE’s former name — to recruit members for a new girl group in 2019.

“We lament how HYBE continues to tell lies regarding NewJeans’ debut, despite the truth of the matter.”

HYBE CEO Park Ji-won [HYBE]

HYBE CEO Park apologized for the confusion that the company's shareholders face amid the turmoil, which he referred to as “the trial and error” of the multilabel system, in a conference call on Thursday.

The BTS agency reported lower-than-expected profit for the first quarter of 2024. HYBE has “verified all the related facts” and will take necessary measures, Park said, but refused to share further details regarding its clash with ADOR.

“HYBE was able to grow through the multilabel system, and we managed to establish a stable portfolio by overcoming the trials and errors,” Park told investors.

“You may question the multilabel system due to the current incident, but we will bring a smooth ending to the issue and continue our efforts to improve the multilabel system.”

ADOR's attorneys told reporters on Tuesday that the NewJeans agency plans to open a board meeting until May 10 and convene a shareholders' meeting by the end of May.