SK Hynix: boss’s divorce rocks the company


Let’s set the scene. Chey Tae-won is a Korean billionaire and owner of SK Group, South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate. SK Group includes the world’s number-two memory chip manufacturer, SK Hynix. He married the daughter of Roh Tae-woo, who was head of state from 1988 to 1993, to great fanfare in 1988.

Sk Hynix divorce boss
Chey Tae-won and his former wife Roh So-young

36 years later, the end of their adventure together shakes the business world. It all started with the revelation of an affair with a much younger woman and a child born of the relationship. The inevitable divorce obviously dragged on through the courts. And the latest step has been taken by an appeal court, which has ordered the SK Group boss to pay 1,380 billion won ($1 billion) in property division to his ex-wife. Lawyers for the deceived wife succeeded in demonstrating that her husband’s success was partly due to his wife’s support, in particular her “work at home”, but above all to the impact of the privileged links with political power that she, as a president’s daughter, had brought to her husband over the years.

An affair that could destabilize the Group

In this case, it is important to understand that the bulk of Chey Tae-won’s fortune is made up of shareholdings in various subsidiaries of the company founded by her uncle in the early 1950s. The sum claimed is due in cash. This situation could force Chey Tae-won to reduce his holdings in some of the conglomerate’s key companies, which are still in his family’s hands. Given current events and the boom in AI-related chips, SK Hynix, the NAND, DRAM and HBM memory specialist, is a rapidly mobilizable asset.

Sk Hynix
Chips, batteries, telecoms, medical sector… the group is tentacular

SK Hynix: an ideal target for “vulture” investors

Les Echos newspaper reports that earlier this week, members of SK Group management held a crisis meeting to consider the consequences of the court-ordered division of the couple’s assets following their divorce. The need for liquidity could lead to sales of Group shares. The company’s lawyers warned against the risk of ill-intentioned investors or activist funds taking advantage of these sudden sales to gain a stake in the company and control its destiny.

To gain time, Chey Tae-won’s lawyers appealed the decision.