MBK Partners Chairman Michael Byungju Kim/Courtesy of MBK Partners

1. Wealth: $1.5 billion (Forbes, 2019)

With the wealth of $1.5 billion, Michael Byungju Kim is South Korea’s 23rd richest businessman, even ahead of CJ Group Chairman Lee Jae-hyun and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin.

The two tycoons’ wealth amounted to $1.43 billion and $870 million, respectively, according to Forbes in 2019.

2. Date of birth: October 8, 1963

Michael Byungju Kim is the founding chairman of MBK Partners, South Korea’s largest homegrown private equity fund.

The billionaire entrepreneur is otherwise known as Michael Kim or Kim Byung-ju.

3. Company & title: MBK Partners/Chairman

Michael Byung-ju Kim was born in South Korea and moved to the United States when he was 10 years old.

He started his career at Goldman Sachs in 1993. Two years later, he got aboard Saloman Smith Barney. He later joined the Carlyle Group as chief of its Asian operation.

Kim established MBK Partners in 2005 to rack up an ultra-fast growth, which earned him a moniker of the “Godfather of East Asian private equity industry.”

Included in his large-scale M&A deals were ING Life Korea (now Orange Life), Coway, and Home Plus.

In particular, MBK spent more than $6 billion in 2016 to take over Home Plus, which was owned by global retail giant Tesco. Back then, it was the country’s largest M&A deal.

MBK Partners, which bears Kim’s initials, is presently one of the largest hedge funds in Asia.

4. Educational backgrounds: Haverford College, Harvard University

Kim studied English literature at Haverford College and an MBA at Harvard University.

In 2010, Haverford College said that Kim pledged $7.5 million toward the construction of a new dormitory through the MBK Educational Foundation.

5. Marital status: Married (wife: Park Kyung-ah)

Kim is married to Park Kyung-ah, the youngest daughter of the late Prime Minister Park Tae-joon, who also set up the country’s top steelmaker POSCO.

Park originally tied the knot with Jeon Jae-yong, the second son of former President Chun Doo-hwan, but got married to Kim after separation with Jeon. Jeon’s second wife is actress Park Sang-ah.

Kim and Park have two sons. And the second son played a role for South Korea in 2014 when the country won the Little League World Series in almost 30 years.

Former Samjong KPMG Yun Young-gak, who led the top accounting company for about two decades, is also his brother-in-law.

6. Relatives:

POSCO founder Park Tae-joon: Father-in-law                                                           Former Samjong KPMG Chairman Yun Young-gak: Brother-in-law

7. Criminal records: Clean

Many South Korean billionaires, who succeeded family-owned conglomerates like Samsung and SK, have criminal records.

In comparison, Chairman Kim does not have any known criminal records.

8. Controversies:

MBK Partners has achieved handsome returns in many investments over the past 15 years. But not all of them were successful, as shown by Young Hwa Engineering, a metal structures maker that MBK bought in 2009.

The company entered court receivership in 2016.

Included in other disappointing performances are D’Live, the country’s No. 3 cable TV operator, and NEPA, an outdoor apparel manufacturer.

MBK channeled around 2.2 trillion won ($1.7 billion) in 2008 to take over D’Live but struggled to offload the pay-TV service provider as the country’s cable TV business has faltered due to online-based services like YouTube and Netflix.

MBK spent almost 1 trillion won ($80 million) to gobble up NEPA in 2013. Back then, the brand fared well, but the decreasing demand for outdoor apparel chipped away at its bottom lines.

Observers expect that MBK will try to divest NEPA soon in line with its funding schedule.

Also gaining attention is Home Plus, the country’s No. 2 discount chain after E-Mart, as its acquisition price was higher than $6 billion.

9. Autobiographical book: “Offerings”

Of note is that Chairman Kim published a book in March 2020, which is his debut novel titled “Offerings.”

The main character of the autobiographical novel, Dae Joon, can be easily related to the author.

Just like Chairman Kim, Dae Joon moved to the United States and studied at Harvard. Then, he helped South Korea grapple with the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

10. Related articles:

MBK founder wealthier than Lotte chief

MBK’s long struggle to exit D’Live

NEPA: Another headache of MBK?

Exclusive: Michael Byungju Kim to publish autobiographical novel