BTS perform onstage for the 2020 American Music Awards in South Korea on Nov. 22, 2020.
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South Korea’s biggest public listing in three years came in October courtesy of the country’s most popular export: K-pop. Founded in 2005, HYBE—formerly known as Big Hit Entertainment—was once an underdog talent agency in South Korea’s competitive music industry. But thanks to supergroup BTS—arguably the biggest band in the world—the company is in rarefied air. Like Disney before it, HYBE looks at each of its acts as intellectual property to be developed into a universe of fan-friendly experiences and products. In the case of BTS, that’s meant everything from logos on Samsung smartphones to virtual Fortnite parties. At the end of January, HYBE and its subsidiary invested over $60 million in its former rival, K-pop entertainment company YG. And in April, HYBE purchased U.S.-based media group Ithaca Holdings in a $1 billion deal, adding pop stars like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande to its roster.

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