Fantagio was founded by Na Byeongjun as NOA (Network Of Asia) Entertainment in 2008 and was renamed to Fantagio Co., Ltd. in 2011. It’s a public company on the stock market with a board of directors and shareholders. Fantagio has various subsidiaries (see image below). Fantagio had Na Byeongjun as CEO and subsidiary Fantagio Music was run by CEO Woo Youngseung.
Fantagio owns shares in Management SOOP, an actor management agency, which was founded by a former Fantagio key figure in 2011. SOOP is owned by Kakao M (former LOEN Entertainment) and it became a subsidiary of Kakao M in 2019.
Fantagio has (or had?) also several projects to enrich the entertainment industry:
- Management Academy: systematic education & training for future managers.
- Actors League: program that selects and develops new actors and actresses.
- i-Teen: kids and junior stars-in-preparation receive professional training in vocals, dance and acting. For example: ASTRO & Weki Meki members.
The old Fantagio Building with former Café Fantagio.
In 2012 Fantagio debuted their first idol group Hello Venus under Tricell Media, a joint venture between Pledis Entertainment and Fantagio.
In 2013 Fantagio debuted Korea’s first idol actor group 5URPRISE. A group of actors who were also trained in singing, dancing and variety.
In July 2014 Fantagio and Pledis Entertainment ended their joint venture for Hello Venus. Yoo Ara & Yoonjo returned to Pledis while the other members continued as Hello Venus under Fantagio Music with new members Seoyoung & Yeoreum.
In 2015 Fantagio Music started with their first idol boy group ASTRO’s predebut activities and ASTRO finally debuted in February 2016.
In 2016 Fantagio Music also sent their female trainees to Produce 101 Season 1. Choi Yoojung & Kim Doyeon ended up debuting in I.O.I.
In December 2016 JC Group with CEO Wei Jie invested a lot of money in Fantagio. JC Group got 27,29% of the shares in Fantagio due their big investment. The board of directors decided to make Wei Jie co-CEO along with founder and CEO Na Byeong Jun. This didn’t influence subsidiary Fantagio Music.
In 2017 Fantagio only sent Ong Seongwu to Produce 101 Season 2 and he ranked 5th. He promoted with Wanna One from August 7, 2017 until January 27, 2019.
In 2017 Fantagio debuted their second idol actor group Surprise U on July 7 and their second girl group Weki Meki on August 8.
Around December 2017 JC Group gained 22,78% of shares by buying shares from other shareholders and JC Group became the biggest shareholder in Fantagio with 50,07% of total shares. Na Byeongjun was dismissed as CEO at the meeting for board of directors and Wei Jie became the sole CEO of Fantagio Group. A lot of other key figure staff were also dismissed.
Fantagio Music started 2018 with FM201.8 (Fantagio Music 2018) project: there was a digital single release (solo, unit or collaboration songs) every month from their artists.
In January 2018 Fantagio staff released 9 demands towards JC Group. They threatened to go on strike and to take legal actions if JC Group didn’t meet their demands:
Na Byeong Jun submitted his resignation letter at the end of January 2018. He was still a director in the board of directors after being dismissed as CEO. He left the company to protect the staff from getting fired after making their 9 demands and because he felt extremely guilty about accepting the investment from JC Group which caused the company damage. He set up a new agency called STARDIUM together with the dismissed key figure staff from Fantagio in March 2018.
In April 2018 actress Kang Hanna sent Fantagio a certification of contents and expressed her intent on leaving Fantagio. Korean Entertainment Management Association (KEMA/CEMA) started to investigate Fantagio. They contacted Fantagio about the requirements for Article 26 of the Act on the Development of the Public Culture and Arts Industry (see image below).
On May 11, 2018 JC Group dismissed Fantagio Music CEO Woo Youngseung. On May 13 Woo Youngseung resigned. Wei Jie’s secretary became the CEO of Fantagio Music. On May 14 a news report was released that Fantagio owns 95% of Fantagio Music’s shares. They fired Woo Youngseung over Fantagio Music’s finances. They promised to do their best in normalize the management and to actively work on investing in their artists.
On May 14, 2018 Fantagio’s signed actors asked for contract dispute mediation with KEMA. On May 25 Fantagio lost their membership in KEMA due dismissing key directors and former CEO’s Na Byeong Jun & Woo Youngseung, Fantagio had no longer any director who met the requirements of Article 26 mentioned earlier and therefore no longer ran according to the rules of KEMA and the Act on the Development of the Public Culture and Arts Industry.
On June 16, 2018 there was an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM: meeting with all directors & shareholders) and Park Haesun (former Box Media CEO) was appointed as a new registered director of Fantagio. Park Haesun became part of the board of directors, but was not appointed as a new CEO.
On July 25, 2018 it was revealed that KEMA still sent notices about the Act to Fantagio. Article 26 mentions that more than one board member needs to meet the requirements when following the second step to be in check with the Act. Fantagio needed to appoint one more director or prove that they meet the requirements in their response to KEMA. It was also revealed that the contracts of actors Kang Hanna, Im Hyunsung, Kang Haelim & Choi Yoonra were being reviewed by KEMA since they searched for contract mediation in May.
On July 26, 2018 KEMA released an official statement to their association members (entertainment agencies and production companies) that they were banned from working with Fantagio until their disputes with the individual signed actors were resolved. On July 27 Korea Culture Industry’s Federation (KCIF) revealed that they supported KEMA’s decision.
On August 1, 2018 Fantagio shared that they signed a legal advisory contract with attorney Ko Seungwoo. The focus will be on removing the restrictions on their artists’ activities and on legally handling malicious comments & rumors about their artists.
On August 8 Korea Broadcasting Actors Union (KBAU) joined the boycott by KEMA. KBAU consists of 5,000 people in five divisions (television actors, voice actors, comedians, stage actors and action actors) and is Korea’s only actor labor union.
On September 27, 2018 Kang Hanna signed a contract with STARDIUM to continue working with former Fantagio CEO, Na Byeongjun, and her manager who also left Fantagio to work at STARDIUM. But on February 25 Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (KCAB) had ruled that the exclusive contract between actress Kang Hanna and Fantagio was still valid and that her claims for termination weren’t lawful. Fantagio took legal action against Kang Hanna for signing with another agency while still being under contract with Fantagio. On March 28, 2019 Kang Hanna and Fantagio settled after many discussions and Kang Hanna returned to Fantagio.
In 2019 Fantagio started promoting Ong Seongwu as their own artist and sent male trainee Han Gichan to Produce X 101.
On May 8, 2019 Hello Venus officially disbanded. Alice and Nara left Fantagio while Lime, Seoyoung, Yooyoung and Yeoreum renewed their contracts with Fantagio as actresses under new stage names Chae Juhwa (Lime), Lee Seoyoung (Seoyoung), Lee Hwakyum (Yooyoung) & Yu Nagyeol (Yeoreum).
On May 10, 2019 Fantagio released an official statement regarding the arrest of JC Group CEO Wei Jie in China for illegal financing and fraud. Fantagio revealed that the Korean branch of JC Group is a separate entity from JC Group in China and that there was no immediate problem for the company. Fantagio requested to refrain from posting speculative articles.
In July 2019 Park Haesun was appointed as co-representative director together with JC Group Wei Jie.
On September 8, 2019 it was revealed that a former Fantagio Music employee has been sentenced to 10 months in prison by The Seoul Central Courts for pocketing commission fees in the process of signing endorsement deals for Hello Venus and Weki Meki. The scheme took place from December 2016 to February 2018 for a total of 105 million won ($88,200).
On October 21, 2019 Lim Hyunsung, Kang Haelim & Choi Yunla lost their legal battle against Fantagio as the court decided that their contracts were valid and they all returned to promoting under Fantagio.
On December 13, 2019 a notice about the shareholder list was uploaded on Fantagio’s website and it was signed by Park Haesun as sole CEO. Wei Jie was probably removed from his CEO position following his arrest for illegal financing and fraud in China.
On March 9, 2020 a news report revealed that Fantagio was selling about 30 percent of the shares that were owned by JC Group. If a new investor acquired these shares, then they would become Fantagio’s greatest shareholder. It was also revealed that Fantagio had been operating on its own capital (independent of JC Group) and has been managed by a professional executive. The agency will continue to operate stably regardless of issues related to major shareholder changes.
On March 31, 2020 the contracts of all 5URPRISE members expired and the members decided to not renew their contracts with Fantagio. Gong Myung signed a contract with SARAM Entertainment while Seo Kangjoon, Kang Tae Oh and Lee Taehwan signed a contract with new agency Man Of Creation (M.O.C) which was founded by their manager. It’s unclear whether Yoo Il is still active as an actor.
On April 22, 2020 Fantagio announced that the shares and the management rights that were formerly owned by Gold Finance Korea (JC Group) have been sold to GNC Partners. Fantagio revealed plans to recruit top actors, reinforce the production department and to produce a new idol group. However, it was later revealed that true purchaser of the shares was L&A Holdings instead of GNC Partners.
On May 22, 2020 Han Gichan debuted as an actor through web drama ‘Where Your Eyes Linger’.
On May 25, 2020 it was announced that Park Haesun would remain the CEO after the biggest shareholder had changed. Fantagio received an investment of 20 billion won from Jang Ik Gu (the new biggest shareholder) as inflow funds.
In June 2020 L&A Holdings sued Fantagio over management rights. The legal dispute intensified due misunderstandings surrounding the right to take control of the company.
On September 9, 2020 it was revealed that Fantagio’s board of directors and L&A Holdings had reached an amicable agreement which ended the legal dispute. They agreed on joint management with Park Haesun (Fantagio) & Ji Hyoseop (L&A Holdings). It was also shared that Oh Gwangsoo joined Fantagio recently after previously working as a pop culture journalist for the newspapers ‘Kyunghyang Shinmun’ & ‘Sports Kyunghyang’. Oh Gwangsoo became the Vice President of Fantagio.
On September 14, 2020 Fantagio debuted the first subunit from ASTRO called MOONBIN&SANHA with mini album ‘IN-OUT’.
In October 2020 Fantagio joined a joint venture with FX Gear which produces VR/AR content. Fantagio also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Monster Union for drama, broadcast and movie production.
On November 23, 2020 it was revealed that Park Jaehong became the new co-CEO of Fantagio with Ji Hyoseop as Park Haesun resigned from the position.
In 2020 Fantagio promoted Chu Yejin and Choi Junyoung more after being with the agency for years as actress and actor respectively. They both appeared in web drama ‘To Be Continued’ in 2015.
On February 10, 2021 it was announced that Park Jaehong resigned as CEO for personal reasons and that Ji Hyoseop is now the sole CEO of Fantagio.
On February 15, 2021 Fantagio held an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM: meeting with all directors & shareholders) and all board directors were dismissed. During the EGM 5 new executive directors (Park Jongjin, Shin Youngjin, Kim Chulmin, Yoon Seyeol & Nam Gungjeong), 2 outside directors (Jo Junbae & Lee Gyeyeon) and auditor Shin Mingyu were appointed. The management has been completely changed. Fantagio plans to operate under the system of two CEO’s: Park Jongjin will oversee the overall management while Shin Youngjin will oversee production.
Fantagio signed a few new actors and actresses following the new management in 2021: Jin Suhyun, Kim Dokyung, Park Yerin, Kim Mihwa, Moon Yoobin, Lee Jonguk and Jo In.
On June 28, 2021 it was announced that actress Lee Hwakyum (former HELLO VENUS Yooyoung) signed with Prain TPC and left Fantagio.
On July 14, 2021 I noticed that actress Chae Juhwa (former HELLO VENUS Lime) was removed from Fantagio’s website and that both Fantagio and Juhwa unfollowed each other on Instagram. She is probably a free agent for now.
On August 11, 2021 it was announced that Fantagio donated 300 million won to Milal Welfare Foundation for vulnerable and underprivileged people who have difficulty in finding jobs. On the same day Fantagio released the ‘School 2021′ casting news of their new rookie actor Kim Nurim.
On August 23, 2021 Fantagio announced that they signed an exclusive contract with senior actor Baek Yoonsik.
On August 29, 2021 a banner was put on Fantagio’s building in Yeoksam-dong that the building was up for rent. It was confirmed that Fantagio moved to SM Entertainment’s old building in Samseong-dong at the end of September.
On November 3, 2021 ASTRO MJ debuted as a solo artist with a trot single called ‘Happy Virus’.
On December 20, 2021 it was announced that veteran actress Kim Hyun signed an exclusive contract with Fantagio. On Fantagio’s website Kim Geunsoo is also listed as newly signed actor.
On January 17, 2022 Fantagio debuted the second subunit from ASTRO called JINJIN&ROCKY with self-produced mini album ‘Restore’.
On January 29, 2022 Fantagio posted a message for Lunar New Year on Instagram including new actors while also having a few actresses missing. On Fantagio’s website Baek Seobin is listed as newly signed actor while Lee Seoyoung (former Hello Venus Seoyoung) & Yu Nagyeol (former Hello Venus Yeoreum) were removed from the website. Lee Seoyoung signed with Urban Works in March 2022.
On February 3, 2022 it was announced that Fantagio will start their drama production business with OCN ‘Blind’. Fantagio plans to focus on content production through investment, planning & development.
On April 20, 2022 Fantagio announced their new project ‘Fantagio Music Hackathon’ which is a contest to launch songs for NFT meta-idol characters. Fantagio is collaborating with Fellaz, a NEW3 (Next Entertainment Web 3.0) platform, for an NFT project.
On April 25, 2022 it was announced that rookie actress Jeon Dain signed an exclusive contract with Fantagio.
On May 24, 2022 it was announced that rookie actress Park Haein signed an exclusive contract with Fantagio and that she will star in KBS2 ‘Minamdang: Case Note’.