SEOUL (Reuters) – Lee Kun-hee, who built Samsung Electronics
The company said it died after spending more than six years in hospital after suffering a heart attack on Sunday at a global powerhouse in smartphones, semiconductors and TVs.
The charismatic leader of the Samsung group and the wealthiest person in the country developed it into the largest group in South Korea. But he was also convicted of bribery and tax evasion, and he and the empire he had created to create enormous economic domination, and for opaque regimes and suspected transfers of family funds.
Chung Sun-su, chief executive of corporate researcher firm Chebul.com, said, “Lee admits to South Korea’s spectacular rise and how South Korea’s globalization is considered a symbolic figure.”
According to Fair Trade Commission figures and Reuters calculations, Samsung Group affiliates had 326.7 trillion ($ 289.6 billion) of earnings in 2019, accounting for 17% of South Korea’s GDP.
At 5 pm (0800 GMT), Lee’s son JY Lee, wearing a face mask, drove to the Samsung Medical Center where a memorial was being held. One memorial said that the area for the memorial was limited to 50 people.
The funeral will be a small family affair, Samsung said. It did not say when or where the funeral will take place.
Lee, who was 78, is the latest generation leader of a family-controlled group in South Korea, or Chabol, to die, leaving possible thorny succession issues for the third generation.
The ruling party leader and former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon praised Lee’s leadership, but said, “It cannot be denied that he strengthened the chaebol-led economic structure and failed to recognize labor unions.” ”
Lee’s death, with total assets of $ 20.9 billion according to Forbes, immediately determines investors’ interest in a possible restructuring of the group involving its stakes in major Samsung companies such as Samsung Life Insurance.
And Samsung Electronics.
Lee owns 20.76% of the insurance company and is the largest individual shareholder of Samsung Electronics with a 4.18% stake.
JY Lee has been embroiled in legal woes related to the merger of Samsung’s two affiliates, which helped Lee gain more control over the group’s flagship Samsung Electronics.
Chhote Lee served jail time for his role in the bribery scandal, leading to the impeachment of then-President Park Geun-hye. The hearing on the appeal of the case is scheduled to resume on Monday. This month saw a separate trial on allegations of accounting fraud and stock price manipulation.
“With Lee Passing, the Samsung Group now faces the biggest governance shakeup since the merger between Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T”
In 2015, Ah Sang-hee, a corporate governance specialist at Daishin Economic Research Institute, said.
“For JY Lee, getting the most share of Lee Kun-hee-hold is more important than ever,” Ahan said. “The key here is with taxes. There are major barriers to coming up with substantial taxes related to inheritance and avoiding potential disputes with her sisters. ”
It is unclear how the elder Lee’s three children and his wife would divide their wealth, an issue that led to family feuds in other chaebols after his father’s death.
“It has been six years since Lee was hospitalized, so Samsung would go through a gradual succession if there was agreement between the children. If not, a quarrel is likely, ”said Park Sang-in, a professor at Seoul National University.
Lee died along with his family, including the group’s president, JY Lee, vice president of Samsung Electronics.
“The chairman was a true visionary who transformed Samsung from a local business to a world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse,” Samsung said in a statement.
The company did not state the cause of death and Lee declined to comment on whether a will was dropped.
In 1987, Lee became chairman of the Samsung Group, but had to resign for more than a decade after being convicted of bribing the country’s president.
He was again convicted in 2008 of breach of trust and embezzlement, but a long-time member of the International Olympic Committee was forgiven for helping the country’s bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
His aggressive bets on new businesses, especially semiconductors, helped his father Lee Byung-Chull’s noodle trading business grow into some $ 375 billion in assets, ranging from dozens of allied electronics and insurance to shipbuilding and construction Spans
“His legacy will be forever,” Samsung said.