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Ariana Grande’s exit rumor leaves HYBE in pickle

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Ariana Grande is reportedly parting with Scooter Braun after a decade-long partnership. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
Ariana Grande is reportedly parting with Scooter Braun after a decade-long partnership. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Rumor has it that Ariana Grande is leaving her manager Scooter Braun. Should it be true, the biggest loser may not be Braun but boy band BTS’s agency HYBE.

Billboard on Monday reported that Grande split with Braun, ending a decade-long partnership that began in 2013 when she released her debut album “Yours Truly.” Braun is the CEO of HYBE America, the U.S. branch of the K-pop powerhouse that owns Ithaca Holdings after it was bought for $1.05 billion in April 2021.

HYBE has not given an official comment, but is likely to take a major blow should the news turn out to be true.

Its $1 billion deal has been questioned by the local media since the day the purchase was made. HYBE had estimated Ithaca’s net value to be at 380 billion won ($287 million) but paid three times that price.

HYBE acquired Braun’s Ithaca — the parent company of SB Projects, Schoolboy Records, Big Machine Label Group and Sandbox Succession — in an attempt to up its presence in the U.S. music market.

But numerous clients have parted ways with Ithaca lately, including Idina Menzel, who left SB Projects earlier this year, as well as Hilary Duff, J Balvin and Carly Rae Jepsen.

Scooter Braun, left, appears with Justin Bieber at the World Premiere of Justin Bieber's album "Believe″ in Los Angeles on Dec. 18, 2013. [AP]
Scooter Braun, left, appears with Justin Bieber at the World Premiere of Justin Bieber’s album “Believe″ in Los Angeles on Dec. 18, 2013. [AP]

Demi Lovato and Justin Bieber were also reportedly looking to leave the agency, though reps from Bieber and SB Projects denied the rumors.

High-profile clients still under Ithaca’s roster are David Guetta, The Kid Laroi, Black Eyed Peas and Psy, according to Billboard.

However, the investment had hardly been paying off contrary to HYBE’s wishes.

HYBE promoted the Ithaca merger as a move to create synergy between global and homegrown artists, securing a future growth engine. It also promised higher business value through shared intellectual property but a major HYBE-Ithaca collaboration has yet to come.

Fans hoped to see Bieber and BTS collaborate on a song, or Grande join HYBE’s fan platform Weverse. Instead, an online performance by Bieber at the 2022 Weverse Con held in Kintex, Gyeonggi, was all they got.

HYBE’s attempt at global expansion has been accelerating in recent years regardless.

HYBE founder and chairman Bang Si-hyuk speaks at a press conference held by a Korean journalists’ club on March 15. [NEWS1]
HYBE founder and chairman Bang Si-hyuk speaks at a press conference held by a Korean journalists’ club on March 15. [NEWS1]

HYBE founder and chairman Bang Si-hyuk in March said the agency’s first and foremost goal is to become a “non-negligible presence” in the U.S. music market. HYBE America in February bought Atlanta-based hip-hop label QC Media Holdings for 314 billion won.

Braun is not making the situation any easier for HYBE.

Instead of an official explanation, Braun joked Wednesday that he is “no longer managing [himself]” on social media amid numerous exodus reports, including some that said the talent manager taking on the role of CEO at HYBE America accounted for the stumble of his empire to some extent.

Braun sold HYBE shares worth 8.45 billion won in May and another batch worth 18.5 billion won in June through after-hours trading. HYBE stocks plunged around 7 percent during the session following the news on June 2.

HYBE stock prices sank around 25 percent in the past two months.

BY HWANG JEE-YOUNG,SOHN DONG-JOO [sohn.dongjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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