Lee Kun-hee, who made South Korea’s Samsung a global powerhouse, dies at 78

In this news, we discuss the Lee Kun-hee, who made South Korea’s Samsung a global powerhouse, dies at 78.

SEOUL (Reuters) – Lee Kun-hee, who has turned Samsung Electronics into a global powerhouse in smartphones, semiconductors and televisions, died Sunday after spending more than six years in hospital following a heart attack, the company said.

The charismatic leader of the Samsung group and the richest person in the country, made it South Korea’s largest conglomerate. But he and the empire he built have also been vilified by critics for exercising enormous economic clout, and for opaque governance and questionable transfers of family wealth.

“Lee is such a symbolic figure of South Korea’s dramatic rise and the way South Korea embraced globalization, that his death will be remembered by so many Koreans,” said Chung Sun-sup, managing director of the research company Chaebul.com.

Lee, who was 78, is the last second-generation leader of a family-controlled South Korean conglomerate, or chaebol, to die, leaving potentially thorny succession issues for the third generation.

“Lee’s innovative leadership and indomitable spirit should be highly regarded at all times and in all fields,” writes ruling party leader and former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon. Facebook. “But it cannot be denied that he strengthened the economic structure led by the chaebol and did not recognize the unions.”

Lee’s death, with a net worth of $ 20.9 billion according to Forbes, is expected to spark investor interest in a potential restructuring of the group involving its stakes in key Samsung companies such as Samsung Life 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.

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Lee’s son, Jay Y. Lee, has been embroiled in legal issues over the merger of two Samsung subsidiaries that helped Lee gain greater control of the group’s flagship Samsung Electronics.

The youngest Lee served time in prison for his role in a corruption scandal that sparked the impeachment of then President Park Geun-hye. The case is on appeal. A separate trial on charges of accounting fraud and stock price manipulation began this month.

“With Lee’s passing, the Samsung Group is now facing the biggest governance upheaval since the merger between Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T” in 2015, said Ahn Sang-hee, corporate governance expert at Daishin Economic Research Institute.

“For Jay Y. Lee, making the most of this stake Lee Kun-hee holds is more important than ever,” said Ahn. “The key here is with taxes. Come with enough taxes related to that inheritance and avoiding possible conflicts with his sisters are the main obstacles.

It is still unclear how the eldest Lee’s three children will share his wealth, an issue that has led to family feuds in other chaebols in recent years after the deaths of their patriarchs.

“It has been six years since Lee was hospitalized, so if there is a consensus among the children, Samsung will go through an orderly succession. Otherwise, there is a possibility of a quarrel, ”said Park Sang-in, professor at Seoul National University.

“With Lee’s death, Samsung now faces more inheritance uncertainty,” he said.

Lee died with his family by his side, including Jay Y. Lee, vice president of Samsung Electronics, the conglomerate said.

“President Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into a global leader in innovation and industrial strength of a local business,” Samsung said in a statement.

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

Lee helped grow his father Lee Byung-chull’s noodle trading business to an immense power with assets worth around $ 375 billion, with dozens of subsidiaries ranging from electronics and from insurance to shipbuilding and construction.

Over its lifetime, Samsung Electronics has grown from a second-tier TV maker to the world’s largest tech company by revenue – seeing Japanese brands like Sony Corp, Sharp Corp and Panasonic Corp in the chips, televisions and screens; end Nokia Oyj’s phone supremacy and beat Apple Inc in smartphones.

“Its legacy will be eternal,” said Samsung.

Reporting by Joyce Lee, Cynthis Kim and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Miyoung Kim and William Mallard

Original © Thomson Reuters

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