The Korea Herald


Tire tycoon's family feud rekindled

MBK Partners launches tender offer of up to W518b for Hankook & Co. shares

By Im Eun-byel

Published : Dec. 5, 2023 - 16:48

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Hankook Tire & Technology Chairman Cho Hyun-bum (left) and Executive Director Cho Hyun-shick (Hankook & Co.) Hankook Tire & Technology Chairman Cho Hyun-bum (left) and Executive Director Cho Hyun-shick (Hankook & Co.)

A sibling feud over the management of Hankook & Co., the holding company behind the world’s sixth-largest tiremaker, Hankook Tire & Technology, has been reignited, as the older of the two brothers has joined hands with a major private equity house to shore up his stake.

Asia's largest private equity firm MBK Partners announced through a regulatory filing Tuesday that it has launched a public tender for Hankook & Co., offering 20,000 won ($15.23) per share under a goal to secure up to 27.32 percent of the company's total issued shares.

The tender offer will be carried out through Ventura Corporation, a special purpose company established under the MBK Partners Special Situations fund.

The tender price is 19 percent higher than the Kospi-listed share’s closing price of 16,820 won from the previous trading day. The private equity house said it is willing to spend up to 518.3 billion won for the initiative.

The move comes as the tire giant has been embroiled in a family dispute for the second time in less than three years.

The first feud was sparked in 2020 when Honorary Chairman Cho Yang-rai decided to hand over his controlling stake in the holdings company (23.59 percent), to his younger son, Cho Hyun-bum, the incumbent chairman, in an over-the-counter transaction, picking him as his successor.

Elder brother and Executive Director Cho Hyun-shick, and eldest sister Cho Hee-kyung, head of the Hankook Tire Foundation, revolted against the decision, with Cho Hee-kyung filing for a court judgment for legal guardianship, raising concerns over her father’s condition. The court overruled her request.

Younger brother Cho Hyun-bum eventually took control of the company in 2021, in which he currently holds a 42.03 percent stake. Following his indictment for bribery and embezzlement in March, the elder Cho brother is now rekindling the dispute, citing a leadership vacancy.

According to the tender offer filing, MBK’s special purpose company has signed a shareholders’ agreement with Cho Hyun-shick and sister Cho Hee-won, stipulating the rights to be exercised on the shares they hold.

Cho Hyun-shick currently holds an 18.93 percent stake in the company, while Cho Hee-won owns 10.61 percent. Cho Hee-kyung, who holds a 0.81 percent stake, was not mentioned.

If the tender offer succeeds, the mentioned parties' stake in the company will surpass that of Chairman Cho Hyun-bum.

Apart from the family-held shares, 17.25 percent of shares are held by retail investors and institutional investors, while 10.37 percent are held by foreign investors.

“If the tender offer is successful, (MBK Partners Special Situations) will immediately launch corporate governance restructuring and management enhancement plans to revamp the shareholder value of Hankook & Co.,” MBK Partners stated in a statement.

Further rivalry in the tender offer is not likely as MBK Partners said it will not acquire the shares if the tender offer fails to reach the minimum target set around 20.35 percent.

It was further reported Tuesday that Chairman Cho Hyun-bum does not plan to launch a separate tender offer bid to secure an additional stake in the company.

Fueled by the siblings’ proxy feud, Hankook & Co.'s share price closed at 21,850 won on Tuesday, marking a nearly 5,000-won rise from the previous closing price. It surpassed the tender offer price at 20,000 won.

Shareholders of Hankook & Co. can subscribe to the tender offer through the acting brokerage firm, Korea Investment & Securities, by Dec. 22, the end date of the tender offer subscription period. The settlement date is Dec. 27.