Kakao’s Founder Faces Antitrust Probe, Loses Top Spot As South Korea’s Richest

Kim Beom-su, the founder of South Korean internet giant Kakao, has tumbled from the top spot of the country’s wealth ranking, after local media revealed that he’s being probed by the country’s antitrust regulator.

Korean media widely reported that Korea’s Fair Trade Commission is probing Kim for allegedly leaving out “necessary information or falsely reported about K Cube Holdings, an investment firm fully owned by Kim, over the past five years.”

K Cube Holdings is the de facto holding company of Kakao, of which its business spans from operating the popular messaging app for some 46 million local users, to providing online payments and ride-hailing services.

Agents of the commission had visited Kakao’s headquarters and K Cube’s office recently, as some media reported, as authorities pressed for the probe over potential violations of Korea’s fair trade law.

The news effectively knocked Kim from the top of the Korea Rich List, pushing down his fortune further just a few days after regulators made it clear they’re determined to crackdown on tech giants that may have been misusing their market dominance.

In less than three months, almost $5 billion has been wiped off Kim’s net worth in the wake of regulators’ moves, ever since his wealth hit a record of $16.2 billion in late June.

As of Tuesday noon, Kim has an estimated net worth of $11.1 billion, according to the Real-Time Billionaires List, behind Celltrion cofounder Seo Jung-jin and Samsung’s Jay Y. Lee, who had been released from prison on parole last month.

That comes as shares of Kakao on the Korea Exchange have been dealt a blow, having opened already lower on Tuesday morning. Its stock price plunged further during daytime trading, having lost about 5% by midday compared to the Monday’s close.

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