Samsung’s transition — from most ridiculed phone maker to the biggest

Kim Ki-nam, vice chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics Co.’s device solutions, speaks during the company’s annual general meeting in Suwon on March 18, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2020

Samsung’s transition — from most ridiculed phone maker to the biggest

  • Samsung is a larger smartphone manufacturer than Apple, and at the same time a key supplier to its great rival
  • It's overall turnover is equivalent to a fifth of S. Korea's GDP, Geoffrey Cain says in his book "Samsung Rising"

SEOUL: Military-style management and an unquestioning reverence for the founding Lee family have fueled Samsung’s transition from the world’s most ridiculed phonemaker to its biggest, says the author of a new book.

Today Samsung — by far South Korea’s most powerful conglomerate with more than 50 affiliates from electronics and insurance to hotels and apartments — is a larger smartphone manufacturer than Apple, and at the same time a key supplier to its great rival.

The group’s overall turnover is equivalent to a fifth of the GDP of the world’s 12th-largest economy, where citizens sometimes refer to their country as the “Republic of Samsung.”

It is a remarkable transformation from only a few years ago when Western consumers mocked it for its unreliable products.

At first fascinated by the firm, author Geoffrey Cain said: “As I got deeper, I felt like I was going down the rabbit hole.”

Its rise was tainted with corruption, he writes in “Samsung Rising,” a rare English-language detailing of the highly secretive and opaque empire, published last week in the US.

HIGHLIGHT

Samsung founder Founder Lee Byung-chul saw Samsung as more than a business, identified with the war-ravaged nation itself, and it played a key part in South Korea’s rise to become Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

Cain interviewed around 400 people, including current and former Samsung employees, executives and politicians, he said, but many refused to be named or go on the record.

Founder Lee Byung-chul started Samsung — the name means “Three Stars” — as a vegetable and dried fish shop in 1938 and after the Korean War expanded into sugar, finance, chemicals, electronics and more.

Lee saw Samsung as more than a business, identified with the war-ravaged nation itself, and it played a key part in South Korea’s rise to become Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

He forged close relations with military dictator Park Chung-hee, and married off his sons to daughters of governors and ministers, sealing enduring connections with political power.

Cain zeroes in on the firm’s long-running relationship with Apple, which began when a youthful Steve Jobs met Lee Byung-chul in 1983 as he sought parts to build a tablet computer — 27 years before releasing the iPad.


Oil workers evacuated as storm heads for US rigs

Updated 20 September 2020

Oil workers evacuated as storm heads for US rigs

  • Production faces renewed threat as Beta bears down on key Gulf of Mexico platforms

NEW YORK: Royal Dutch Shell halted some oil production and began evacuating workers from a US Gulf of Mexico platform, the company said, as a new tropical storm flared.

Beta, the 23rd-named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, formed in the Bay of Campeche and was forecast to strengthen steadily and become a hurricane by Sunday off the Texas coast, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Shell said it was removing non-essential employees from its Perdido platform in the western Gulf of Mexico and securing nearby drilling rigs. Occidental Petroleum Corp, which operates in the same area, also began implementing storm procedures, it said.

Chevron Corp. has not newly evacuated staff and there was no impact from storm Beta on production at its operated facilities, the company said. Chevron owns a stake in Shell’s Perdido.

The NHC issued a hurricane watch for most of the Texas coast and warned of heavy rains along the northwest Gulf coast through Wednesday.

Beta could become the third Gulf of Mexico hurricane in less than a month, behind Laura and Sally. Hurricane Sally swept across the central and eastern Gulf, slamming into Alabama on Wednesday with winds of up to 105 mph (170 kph). Laura entered on Aug. 25 and hit southwest Louisiana with 150 mph winds.

There were 37 platforms on Friday that remained unstaffed, with oil output cut by 396,554 barrels per day and natural gas by 435 million cubic feet per day in the wake of Hurricane Sally.

The US Gulf of Mexico offshore oil production accounts for 17 percent of US crude oil production and 5 percent of US natural gas production.