Nexon founder hints at plan to sell his $9B majority share in gaming giant

The founder of Korea’s Nexon, one of the biggest gaming companies on the planet, today appeared to acknowledge his intention to sell his controlling interest for around $9 billion.

The divestment has been a hot rumor after a report from newspaper Korea Economic Daily this week [via Reuters] suggested that Jung-Ju Kim, who founded Nexon back in 1989, is moving to sell nearly all of his holdings in the firm, which is listed on the Tokyo stock exchange. Kim, the paper claimed, is tired of the ups and downs of the industry and, fresh from overturning a bribery charge last year, is ready to channel his energies into new areas.

In a statement released today, Kim said he is “contemplating various ways to back up Nexon in becoming a more globally competitive firm” while also assessing “new challenges, without growing complacent.” More information will be announced soon, Kim added.

Nexon provided TechCrunch with a copy of the statement in Korean — you can read it on Google Translate here — while the company also issued a relative “no comment” of its own.

There have been several media reports in connection with a potential transaction by NEXON
Co., Ltd. (“NEXON”)’s major shareholder, NXC Corporation (“NXC”), or its shareholders.

None of these reports are based on any releases made by NEXON.

While it may be true that NXC or its shareholders are considering various options about their
asset management/transactions, nothing has been decided.

If a decision is made by NXC or any other relevant parties, NEXON will make a release or
disclosure in a timely manner.

Nexon went public in Tokyo in 2011, raising more than $1 billion in the year’s biggest listing. Kim’s holdings, which he shares with his wife, are in NXC, which is the biggest backer of Nexon.

Already, games giants Tencent and EA have been linked with a bid for the shareholding. Korean media reports suggest that Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley have been enlisted to manage the sale.

Nexon specializes in free-to-play games. Initially, its focus was on the PC but it has extended its reach into mobile in recent years. Some of its most popular titles include Maplestory, Vindictus and Dungeon and Fighter.

In its most recent financial report in November, Nexon made a net profit of 22.3 billion JPY ($206.5 million) on total revenue of 69.3 billion JPY ($641.7 million), that was up 14 percent and 15 percent year-on-year, respectively. Korea is the company’s biggest market by revenue, followed by North America, Japan and China.

The company is also active in areas outside of gaming, including crypto, where its subsidiaries have made acquisitions, and it is an investor, too. Its most recent deal was an uncharacteristic early investment in Embark Studios, an ambitious new gaming venture from former EA executive Patrick Söderlund.