K-beauty's global rise produces new superrich

K-beauty's global rise produces new superrich

The rising popularity of Korean dramas and K-pop overseas has left the impression on international fans that Korean cosmetics are trendy and attractive, setting beauty standards in Asia.

In light of hallyu, international firms, luxury brands and even investment banks are taking notice of the business opportunities provided by Korean cosmetics brands, and their investments are casting the spotlight on entrepreneurs here.

Lee Jin-wook of Dr. Jart

Contrary to the brand's name, Dr. Jart is a local cosmetics-maker founded by a young entrepreneur -- not an actual doctor.

Dr. Jart's founder Lee Jin-wook was an ordinary salaried worker at an architecture firm until he noticed BB cream's popularity among Korean women. He decided to start his own business and founded Have & Be co. in 2004, launching a cosmetics brand that would eventually sell millions of units of BB cream.

This year, top cosmetics-maker Estee Lauder announced it would invest in the homegrown brand that started from scratch and now is in drugstores and high-end department store chains. Dr. Jart is expected to expand its business overseas through Estee Lauder's global network.

Lee is the largest shareholder of Have & Be co. He owns 66.7 per cent in stocks, which is estimated to be worth at least 17.8 billion won ($15.9 million).

Han Hyun-ok of CLIO

Earlier this year, CLIO drew the market's attention for receiving investments worth $50 million from L Capital, a subsidiary investment bank of LVMH, the luxury group that runs Louis Vuitton, Fendi and other brands.

Han Hyun-ok founded CLIO in 1997 after quitting her previous job at a research centre and electronics firm. Han initially had products manufactured in Europe for its high quality, but production has now shifted to Korea's original design manufacturer.

Product advertisements by celebrities on TV dramas were a major contributor to CLIO's rapid growth in the cosmetics market. Its sales recorded 100 billion won in 2015, up from 43.2 billion won the previous year, after Korean actress Kong Hyo-jin wore CLIO eyebrow liner in "The Producers," which was a big hit in China.

CLIO is to file an initial public offering this year. L capital will hold a 10 per cent stake when the company goes public. Han owns the remaining 90 per cent in stocks, estimated to be worth at least 23.8 billion won.

Lee Sang-rok of Carver Korea

Carver Korea also heated up the beauty industry when Goldman Sachs Group and Bain Capital Private Equity acquired a stake in the firm in July.

Established in 1999, Carver Korea started off as a cosmetics supplier and skin care salon. Carver currently owns several brands, including Vivito, Dr. MJ, Shara and A.H.C.

Among the over 1000 products sold by the brands, A.H.C.'s eye cream sold through TV home shopping in 2013 was a major hit.

The company's sales skyrocketed from 27.3 billion won in 2013 to 156.5 billion won in 2015.

Carver Chairman Lee Sang-rok had 60 per cent in stocks until the Goldman Sachs consortium acquired 40 per cent this year. Lee still retains a 20.2 per cent stake, worth 10 billion won.

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