Tire tycoon's family feud rekindled
A sibling feud over the management of Hankook & Company, 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 own stake.
Asia's largest private equity firm MBK Partners announced through a regulatory filing Tuesday that it has launched a public tender for Hankook & Company, 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 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 of 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 a 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.
Cho Hyun-shick stepped down from management in 2021 and Cho Hyun-bum eventually took control over the company.
Cho Hyun-shick is now rekindling the dispute, citing a leadership vacancy and the indictment of Chairman Cho Hyun-bum for bribery and embezzlement in March.
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 a 18.93 percent stake in the company, while Cho Hee-won owns 10.61 percent. Cho Hee-kyung, who holds 0.81 percent stake, was not mentioned.
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 & Company,” MBK Partners stated through a statement.
However, the success of the upheaval attempt may not be so straightforward. As Chairman Cho Hyun-bum holds a 42.03 percent stake in the company, he could launch a separate tender offer bid to secure an additional 8 percent stake in the company, in turn holding over half of the total shares in the company.
Fueled by the siblings’ proxy fight, Hankook & Company’s share price has been fluctuating at around 21,850 won as of press time, marking a nearly 5,000-won rise from the previous closing price. Hankook Tire & Technology’s shares have been trading at 46,200 won, higher than the previous closing price of 45,550 won.
Shareholders of Hankook & Company can subscribe for 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.