[팍스넷뉴스 원재연 기자] There is another person behind Kang Jong-hyun, the older brother of Startup CEO Kang Ji-yeon and self-proclaimed chairman of Bithumb. Won Young-sik, the chairman of GreenBam Media, worked as a hidden power in the dispute over the control rights of Bithumb.
According to industry sources on the 17th, Greenbam Group and Chairman Won have been mixing money with the largest shareholders Vident, Inbiogen, and Bucket Studio for several years. Hook Entertainment, to which Kang Jong-hyun’s ex-girlfriend Park Min-young belongs, is also a subsidiary of Green Snake Group. That is why the connection between the two people is gathered as Chairman Won.
Chairman Won is the godfather of entertainment and an M&A specialist known as a ‘corporate hunter’. Invested in Nexon GT, JYP, and YG Plus, and realized profits of tens of billions of money earned. He has secured control of related companies mainly through convertible bonds and has made a fortune through M&A. Convertible bonds are a method of securing capital used mainly by KOSDAQ companies because short-term capital expansion is possible and financial transactions between affiliated companies are easy.
◆ Vident’s hidden main shareholder ‘IOK’ and ‘Chairman Won’
Chairman Won first appeared in Bithumb’s governance structure in 2019. In October and November 2019, he bought the convertible bonds of Vident, the largest shareholder of Bithumb Holdings, through various investment associations with IOK, an entertainment company under Ocean in W, where he is the largest shareholder, three times in two months in October and November 2019.
As of the first half of 2020, the amount of convertible bonds purchased by Chairman Won was 24.8% of Vident’s total stake. At that time, BT1 (currently Inbiogen) was Vident’s largest shareholder with a stake of around 13.8%. If Chairman Won exercised his conversion right, he would be Vident’s largest shareholder and the actual controlling right of Bithumb.
However, it seems that he did not desire the position of being directly involved in the management of Bithumb. This is because Chairman Won was on trial as a suspect in the stock price manipulation of Homecast, a KOSDAQ-listed company, during the time he bought the shares in Vident. Fortunately, he was acquitted by an appeals court in April 2020 after four years.
In addition to IOK, Chairman Won secured more convertible bonds from Vident through Cheslow Investment Association, Sounders Investment Association, and B&Global Investment Association. Judging from various circumstances and circumstances, it seems that he has chosen to control the position of the largest shareholder of Bithumb at the back end of the investment union instead of appearing directly as the main shareholder of Vident.
◆ Kim Jae-wook’s assistant?
Chairman Won resigned from Bithumb for a while. This is the time when Kim Jae-wook, the former CEO of Vident, resigned from the battle with Lee Jung-hoon, the former chairman of Bithumb Holdings. In August 2020, former CEO Kim Jae-wook will hand over the ‘Bit Galaxy No. 1 Investment Association’ at the top of Vident to Startup CEO Kang Ji-yeon.
At the end of 2019, when Vident bought convertible bonds, Kim Jae-wook, former CEO of Vident, tried to buy a stake in ‘Bithumb Holdings’ from former BK Group Chairman Kim Byung-gun. At that time, IOK Chairman Won bought Vident convertible bonds on a large scale, and the amount of money that flowed to Vident reached about 65.2 billion won. From the outside, it was enough to see that he was providing money to give Kim Jae-wook some power.
The retreat, by coincidence, also took place around the same time. Former CEO Kim Jae-wook will hand over ‘Bit Galaxy Investment Association No. 1’ to Leewon Comfortec in August 2020 after Mr Lee Jung-hoon took over as chairman of Bithumb Holdings. On the same day, Comfortec’s Lee Won transfers it to ‘No. 1 Initial Investment Association’ CEO Kang Ji-yeon. This is the moment when the owner of Bithumb changed in an instant.
After the resignation of Kim Jae-wook, the former CEO of Vident, Won sold IOK, a subsidiary of Ssangbangol, to Fortis S&C in October 2020. At that time, for some reason, IOK, which held enough bonds, was transferred convertible to become the owner of Bithumb, to Ssangbool.
There is an impressive part in the sudden sale of IOK. The total assets of Fortis SNC were 58.8 billion won. However, the sale price of IOK is about 85 billion won, and it seems that the positions of the acquirer and the acquirer have changed. 40 SNCs held capital increases to raise funds at the time. Wooridul Hubrain, now GreenBam Healthcare, acquired the convertible bonds.
◆ Increase bidder’s share with Green Snake Line
IOK, which directly connected Chairman Won and Bithumb, was bought by SsangBall’s FortistNC. Chairman Won left IOK, distanced himself from Bithumb, and appeared to be distancing himself from the virtual asset market. However, Chairman Won’s connection extended to a number of other virtual asset businesses. In addition, Green Snake has also been mixing shares with Vident Line through various investment associations and affiliates under the scheme.
Chairman Won, who secured cash by selling IOK, reached out to ‘Sky & M’ (now Green Bam E&M), which was a lithium battery raw material producer in the same year. Green Snake will participate in Sky E&M’s capital increase twice in September 2020 to secure management rights.
The subsequent steps of Sky E&M go through several stages and lead to Bithumb again. In February 2021, Sky E&M will form a consortium with 5 corporations and cooperatives and acquire Cyworld from Cyworld CEO Jeon Jeon-wan for 1 billion won. Cyworld, Korea’s representative SNS service, was sold again with a small amount of capital.
The Sky & M Consortium will establish Cyworld Jet in March 2021. In May, the virtual asset ‘Cy Club’ was announced and listed on Bithumb in September of that year. Cyclub is a rebrand of MCI Coin, previously listed on Bithumb. Among domestic exchanges, the only place where Cyclub is traded is Bithumb so far.
Kim Jae-wook, the former CEO of Vident, and his honeymoon relationship seem to be continuing. After transferring the ‘Bit Galleria No. 1 Investment Association’, in November 2020, NK bought C&T, a packaging materials manufacturer, which changed its name to Playgram with the proceeds from the sale. In this process, the investment association under GreenBam Media will acquire about 10 billion won from convertible bonds issued by NK C&T (Playgram). This is similar to how IOK provided funds to CEO Kim Jae-wook by buying bidder convertible bonds in late 2019.
The relationship with Green Snake links, led by Chairman Won, and Vident and Bucket Studio is getting stronger. Green Snake exchanged funds with Vident, Inbiogen, and Bucket Studio through Green Snake Investment, Green Snake Media, and various related associations. Since the end of 2021, Green Snake affiliates have invested about 100 billion won in Vident. As of October 2022, Vident’s market cap is 237.4 billion won.
Most of Chairman Won’s family and GreenBam Group invested in Vident Line in the form of an investment association. So far, his presence as a major shareholder has not been disclosed, and he has no official management rights. The reality of the money war that holds the true owner of Bithumb is not yet known as several companies are intertwined and various characters appear. However, it can be concluded that Chairman Won’s influence is not small.
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