Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-Hee Dies at 78 in Seoul Hospital

Marco Green
October 25, 2020

In 2008, he stepped down from the leadership after being accused of managing slush funds and evading tax to pass company shares to his children.

The senior Lee holds a 4.18 percent stake in Samsung Electronics and a 20.76 percent in Samsung Life, and interests in numerous affiliates, with his assets estimated at up to 20 trillion won.

Mr Lee was the third son of Lee Byung-chul, who founded Samsung Group in 1938.

He was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 after being found guilty of bribery, embezzlement and other charges. The case is on appeal, scheduled to resume tomorrow.

"With Lee passing, Samsung Group is now facing the biggest governance shakeup since the merger between Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T" in 2015, said Ahn Sang-hee, an expert in corporate governance at Daishin Economic Research Institute. "Coming up with enough taxes related to that inheritance and avoiding possible disputes with his sisters are the major hurdles".

Lee had not made public appearances in recent years due to ill health.

Named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine in 2005, Lee began overhauling Samsung Electronics after he saw the company's products gathering dust in a Los Angeles electronics store, according to "The Lee Kun Hee Story", a 2010 biography by Lee Kyung-sik. "If not, there is a possibility of a feud", said Park Sang-in, a professor at Seoul National University. Lee is survived by his wife, Hong Ra-hee, two daughters and only son, Jae-yong, who has been at the helm of Samsung Electronics since his father's 2014 heart attack.

A former Samsung executive remembered Lee as a figure who transformed not only his own company but South Korean business as a whole.

The company did not specify the cause of death and declined to comment on whether Lee left a will.

Mr Lee was twice convicted of criminal offences, including the bribing of former President Roh Tae-woo. Its businesses encompass shipbuilding, life insurance, construction, hotels, amusement park operation and more.

As a member of the Business Council, a confidential club of CEOs at global companies like GM, Goldman Sachs, Coca-Cola and Boeing, Lee stays in touch with key business figures around the world.

"The vice chairman has been the final decision maker of the group's organizational and business restructuring since 2014", a Samsung official said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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