Kakao’s Ryu Reverses Co-CEO Candidacy After Reaction to Share Sale

Kakao's Ryu Reverses Co-CEO Candidacy After Reaction to Share Sale

Kakao Corp., Kakao Pay and KakaoBank Corp. declined further on Monday, weighing on the broader Korean market even as most of its Asian peers gained. Kakao’s board said it has accepted the decision by Ryu, whose term as Kakao Pay CEO ends in March.

The head of Kakao Corp.’s online payment arm abruptly withdrew his candidacy to lead the group’s holding company, casting some doubts over the leadership of the South Korean tech giant. The move by Alex Ryu, chief executive officer of Kakao Pay Corp., comes after he and other executives were criticized by shareholders for selling some of their stake in the company following a blockbuster stock-market debut in November. The sales had soured investor sentiment and triggered a slide in shares of Kakao Pay and other group companies.

Along with Ryu, a new CEO nominee for Kakao Pay and several executives had sold more than 400,000 shares in total, Kakao Pay reported in filings last month.

Faced with criticism from shareholders, Kakao Pay held an internal meeting last week, explaining that Ryu planned to sell his stock options in order to prevent any conflict of interests given a potential move to Kakao Corp. A new Kakao Pay CEO nominee Shin Won-keun told employees that he would not sell any stocks he held during his two-year term, according to a Jan. 4 statement from the company.

Still, Kakao’s labor union demanded the company cancel Ryu’s nomination for co-CEO, Yonhap News reported on Sunday.

KakaoBank’s stock was the worst performer among group companies on Monday, plunging as much as 8%. Kakao Pay lost as much as 5.5% while Kakao Corp. slid 4.8% intraday.

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