“8 to 9 companies [are] interested in acquiring [SM].”
Recent industry rumors have been buzzing with speculation that HYBE Labels, the South Korean entertainment giant behind BTS and numerous other global K-Pop acts, may be considering making another move to acquire SM Entertainment according to ChosunBiz.
These rumors stem from recent reports suggesting that Kakao is exploring the possibility of selling SM Entertainment. While Kakao has officially denied these rumors, industry insiders have taken note of the ongoing speculations and suggested a number of companies that are looking to acquire SM.
Last year, HYBE made headlines when it attempted to acquire SM Entertainment, a deal that could have reshaped the K-Pop landscape significantly. The move generated immense interest and curiosity within the entertainment world. However, at that time, the deal fell through, with various factors contributing to its collapse.
Now, fresh rumors are circulating that HYBE’s Chairman, Bang Si Hyuk, has privately approached private equity funds (PEFs) with a proposal to acquire SM Entertainment. This subtle approach contrasts with the previous high-profile attempt, indicating a potentially more strategic and cautious approach this time around.
Since Chairman Bang himself stepping forward directly may not look good, it is understood that he made the proposal privately to [financial investors].
— Industry Insider
However, HYBE isn’t the only company showing interest in acquiring SM Entertainment.
Another intriguing possibility is the potential reacquisition of SM Entertainment by its founder, Lee Soo Man. Lee Soo Man had previously sold 14.8% of SM Entertainment’s stake to HYBE, but recent developments in court suggest that he may be considering a return. The court has accepted his request to review board meeting minutes and attached documents from SM Entertainment, signaling a possible reexamination of the ownership dispute.
Industry sources also suggest that NCSOFT, a major gaming company, is among the potential buyers. However, NCSOFT — which had once been involved in K-Pop-related ventures through its subsidiary — Universe, has reportedly withdrawn from such activities. Doubts also linger about their financial capacity to acquire a company like SM Entertainment.
Additionally, fashion company F&F has consistently expressed interest in acquiring SM Entertainment according to industry rumors. F&F has reported steady operating profits in the range of ₩100 billion KRW (about $74.7 million USD), and their entry into the K-Pop market through the establishment of F&F Entertainment has marked them as a potential contender.
The American entertainment giant, MGM, is also rumored to be in the mix. MGM has a prior connection with SM Entertainment, as both entities collaborated on promoting a K-Pop audition.
Recent reports suggest that Kakao has expressed its desire to sell SM Entertainment to MGM, even though Kakao Entertainment has officially denied these claims.
While the future of SM Entertainment remains uncertain, the interest from various parties, including HYBE, NCSOFT, F&F, and others, underscores the company’s enduring appeal despite its troubling recent years.