Korean-billionaires-SPC-Chairman-Hur-Young-in
SPC Group Chairman Hur Young-in/Courtesy of SPC Group

1. Wealth: $1.1 billion (Forbes, 2020)

With the fortune of around $1.1 billion, SPC Group Chairman Hur Young-in is South Korea’s 29th wealthiest businessman as of 2020, according to Forbes.

2. Date of birth: May 17, 1949

Hur Young-in is chairman of SPC Group, South Korean food and confectionery giant that owns such brands as Paris Baguette and Paris Croissant. The outfit also runs Korean operations of Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Hur was born in Hwnaghae Province, which is now North Korea, in 1949, just a year before the Korean War (1950-53) broke out.

3. Company & title: SPC Group/Chairman

Hur is the second son of Hur Chang-sung, who founded a bakery in Hwanghae Province in the 1940s and later moved it to Seoul.

The bakery has chalked up a fast growth to become a top-tier food company, dubbed Samlip, in the 1960s with a flagship product of cream-filled pastry.

Chairman Hur Young-in got aboard Samlip in 1969, and in 1981 the businessman crossed the Pacific to enroll in the American Institute of Baking located in Kansas so as to learn how to make bread.

Upon his return two years later, Hur took charge of Samlip’s high-end brand Shany. Thereafter, the young entrepreneur tried to expand the business horizon.

In 1985, Hur started a franchise business by running Baskin-Robbins in Korea. A year later, he embarked on a French-style bakery Paris Croissant and launched the Paris Baguette bakery chain in 1988, which eventually grew into the country’s leading brand.

While Hur was busy in opening new businesses, Samlip was struggling to find its feet under the stewardship of his elder brother.

In 2002, Hur acquired Samlip, and two years later, he founded SPC Group, which controls Samlip, Shany, and all other brands established by him.

Currently, he is regarded as one of the foremost businessmen in the food industry. In 2010, the country’s state-backed broadcaster featured a hit drama, which people believe is about Hur’s life.

His success earned him such monikers as “bakery king,” and “franchise king.”

4. Educational backgrounds: Kyung Hee University, American Institute of Baking

Hur studied in Korea and the United States. He majored in Economics at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, whose alumni include incumbent President Moon Jae-in.

He also learned the art of bread-making in the American Institute of Baking in Kansas.

5. Marital status: Married (wife: Lee Mi-hyang)

Hur is married to Lee Mi-hyang, who studied at Hongik University. She is the younger sister of the late Kolong Group Honorary Chairman Lee Dong-chan, and aunt of current Chairman Lee Woong-yeul.

Hur and Lee have two sons of Hur Jin-soo and Hur Hee-soo.

Both of them started their career at SPC Group and got married to daughters from the country’s family-owned conglomerates just like their father. But the younger Hur quit in 2018 after he was arrested and convicted due to drugs.

6. Relatives:

Samlip founder Hur Chang-sung: Father                                                                Kolong Group Chairman Lee Wong-yeul: Nephew-in-law

7. Criminal records: Under trial

Chairman Hur, his wife, and second son were involved in lawsuits over the past few years.

In late 2018, a Seoul district court convicted Hur of breach of duty as he allegedly offered the trademark of Paris Croissant to his wife Lee so that she can make tens of millions of dollars in loyalty incomes at the expense of company profits.

In early 2020, however, the appeals court acquitted him, and the case is currently pending at the Supreme Court, which is expected to make its decision in late 2020.

8. Vision: “Great Food Company”

Chairman Hur iterated that his eventual goal is to make SPC as a “great food company,” which operates across the globe.

Indeed, the group has proactively tapped into international markets to achieve notable results in some countries. It is one of the trailblazers among South Korean food companies to make a successful foray into overseas markets.

While stressing globalization, however, he sometimes presented overly ambitious goals. For example, he said that SPC aims to run 12,000 stores worldwide in 2030 to record more than $16 billion in sales a year.

In 2017, he told Rep. Ed Royce of the U.S. that SPC vies to expand its Paris Baguette bakery chain to 300 stores in the country by 2020, while generating 10,000 jobs.

Back then, the number of U.S. stores was 57, and the figure is still less than 90 as of January of 2020.

Hence, SPC is unlikely to achieve the 2020 target. But Chairman Hur seemingly does not stop coming up with prohibitively high objectives.

While meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in June 2019, he pledged to increase the number of Paris Baguette stores in the world’s No. 1 economy to 2,000 by 2030, thus creating 60,000 new jobs.

That means that SPC should open almost 200 new stores in the U.S. every year, the figure that the Seoul-based franchise failed to achieve even over almost two decades since its first advance to the U.S. market in early 2000s.

9. Controversies:

In early August 2018, SPC Vice President Hur Hee-soo, Chairman Hur’s second son, was imprisoned over suspicions of having smuggled and smoked liquid marijuana.

He was released in late September, in just about 50 days after imprisonment, as a Seoul district court sentenced him a three-year jail term suspended for four years.

Hur Hee-soo was once a promising businessman. After joining SPC in 2007, he has chalked up exploits like spearheading the introduction of Shake Shack, a famous burger chain in New York, in Korea in 2016.

Days after his arrest in 2018, however, SPC promised to remove him from the conglomerate’s management for good.

Yet, news reports continued that the disgraced third-generation heir is set to return to management, although SPC has denied them.

Chairman Hur’s first son Hur Jin-soo also suffered setbacks in late 2019 when a Beijing court ruled the name of Paris Baguette, and its logo with an Eiffel Tower might make people misunderstand the origin of the brand.

The verdict is feared to negatively affect to the Chinese business of Paris Baguette because SPC may not be able to use the name and logo in China.

It also deals a blow to Vice President Hur Jin-soo as he heads global businesses of Paris Baguette. He entered SPC in 2005.

Causing more controversies, SPC asked a Korean newspaper to take out news articles related to the Chinese court’s decision, offering more than $400,000 as advertisement money in return.

The attempt angered both the newspaper’s reporters and many people in the country. Eventually, the head and the managing director of the media outlet had to apologize and step down.

In 2015, a local news outlet raised suspicions on how Hur Jin-soo and Hur Hee-soo fulfilled their military duties _ in Korea, men between the age of 18 and 28 should serve around two  years in the military.

Instead of serving as soldiers, both enjoyed the privilege in the mid-2000s of working at companies, which had something to do with SPC, according to the news outlet.

It suspected that the two third-generation businessmen did not properly work for the companies, although SPC denied.

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