Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-Hee Dies Aged 78

Marco Green
October 28, 2020

Mr Lee, who helped to build Samsung into Korea's largest conglomerate, died over the weekend aged 78.

Lee Kun-hee is survived by his wife Hong Ra-hee, his only son Lee Jae-yong, and two daughters: Lee Boo-jin and Lee Seo-hyun. Samsung Electronics is likely to announce its third-quarter results on October 29.

Investors have long anticipated a further shake-up in the event of Lee's death, hoping for gains from restructuring to strengthen de facto holding company Samsung C&T's control of Samsung Electronics, such as Samsung C&T buying an affiliate's stake in the tech giant. "Already, Samsung C&T and Samsung Electronics are said to increase the payout ratio for the next three years".

"It's very sad that a great man has passed away", Chung told reporters, praising Lee's leadership "across entire fields of the country's business community".

Samsung Group affiliates' 326.7 trillion won (RM1.2 trillion) in 2019 revenue was worth about 17 per cent of South Korea's gross domestic product, according to Fair Trade Commission data and a Reuters calculation.

Samsung was founded by Mr Lee's father, Lee Byung-chul, and had originally dealt in dried fish, noodles, and fruit.

In 2010, Samsung introduced the Galaxy-branded smartphone running Alphabet Inc's Android software, which helped it pass Apple as the world's biggest smartphone maker in 2011 in terms of units sold.

Geoffrey Cain, who wrote a book on Samsung, said Mr Lee was instrumental in the company's success. Samsung is one of Korea's biggest companies, and the largest of the family-run chaebols, which are comprised of Samsung, LG, Hyundai, SK and Lotte.

Even while suffering from lung cancer, in 1982 he took the "incredibly risky decision" to "enter semiconductors", Cain says, which "allowed Samsung to turn Korea into a Republic of Samsung".

"It has been six years since Lee was hospitalised, so if there is a consensus among the children, Samsung will go through an orderly succession". Questions have been raised on how Lee's heirs - particularly his only son, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong - will pay the tax while maintaining their grip on Samsung's key affiliates, including Samsung Electronics.

The top court ordered a lower court past year to reconsider its suspended jail sentence for him in a massive bribery scandal that led to the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye.

The charges included the practice of unfair transaction and manipulation of market prices under the Capital Markets Act, breach of trust during the course of business and false disclosure and accounting fraud under the External Audit Act.

But he was also convicted of bribery and tax evasion, and his empire was criticized for wielding huge economic clout.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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