Ador CEO Rejects Call for Board Meeting As Hybe Dispute Intensifies — Where Does This Leave NewJeans?

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NewJeans, which last year reached one billion Spotify streams faster than any other K-pop act, has found itself at the center of a dispute between Ador (short for “All Doors One Room”) and its Hybe parent. Photo Credit: TenAsia

Amid an intensifying dispute with Hybe and a related push for her exit, Ador CEO Min Hee-jin has rejected a board meeting request.

This newest twist in the high-profile disagreement, which is garnering ample attention in K-pop circles and in South Korean media generally, just recently came to light. For background, Hybe owns 80 percent of Ador, the professional home of NewJeans, which Min Hee-jin formed, trained, and directs.

When we last checked in on the showdown one week ago, Hybe had accused Ador’s head (who possesses the remaining 20 percent stake in the company) of, among other things, attempting to sell shares without authorization, divulging confidential information to third parties, and moving to spin off Ador into a standalone business.

Furthermore, Hybe initiated an audit, reportedly accessing Ador’s headquarters and computers in search of spin-off-plan evidence, and set in motion an effort to oust Min, per regional outlets.

Notably, Min when speaking to the press refuted Hybe’s claims altogether, maintaining instead that the allegations were retaliation for when she’d criticized the perceived creative and stylistic overlap between NewJeans and a newer Hybe girl group yet, Illit.

Not stopping there, Min staged a full-scale press conference to lay out her position. Spanning over an hour, this conference took a few moments to start after the CEO was in place, video shows. The flashes and noise of the media’s rapid-fire photography, the casually dressed exec explained while shielding her eyes, were preventing her from beginning.

Thousands upon thousands of photos later, Min did tell her side of the story in detail, complete with screenshots of relevant company messages. While AI-powered tools are providing less-than-precise translations of the Korean-language remarks, the Ador CEO touched on the spin-off claims, qualms about her compensation, a purported lack of communication from Hybe, and even allegations that she’d consulted a shaman about managerial decisions.

(Perhaps not coincidentally, Hybe is itself fending off claims of ties “to a pseudo-religious organization” and allegations of “illegal music chart manipulation” in support of BTS.)

Hardly shying away from the confrontation, Hybe the day after the press conference published a release that, according to the Korea Herald, “was apparently hastily drawn up” and was “riddled with grammatical errors.”

One translation of the multi-point Korean-language rebuttal spans north of 2,100 words, exploring topics including Min’s alleged cover-up of an earnest spin-off attempt.

And it’s against this backdrop that Min (and Ador’s other board members) has refuted Hybe’s request to convene a board meeting tomorrow to discuss her possible replacement. That development entered the media spotlight today; as described by the Korea Times, Min and two additional individuals hold voting rights on Ador’s board, effectively granting her control.

Bigger picture, Hybe has reportedly moved to schedule an extraordinary general meeting where Min and other Ador execs could be replaced. But that process will require “about two months” to come to fruition, the Herald relayed. Moreover, the same outlet, citing a K-pop insider, suggested that the drama hasn’t reached its peak; NewJeans’ five members will have the option of leaving with Min or staying with Hybe, per the source.

Of course, the outcome is set to prove commercially significant given the prominence of NewJeans, which dropped a music video for “Bubble Gum” three days ago. On YouTube, the work has already cracked a whopping 15.6 million views.