Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, head of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, dies at 78

Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee, the man who transformed the small television maker into a global giant of consumer electronics. (AP file photo)
Short Url
Updated 25 October 2020

Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, head of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, dies at 78

  • During his lifetime, Samsung Electronics developed from a second-tier TV maker to the world’s biggest technology firm by revenue

SEOUL: Lee Kun-hee, the charismatic leader of Samsung Group, South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, died on Sunday, the company said, six years he was hospitalized for a heart attack.
Lee, who was 78, helped grow his father Lee Byung-chull’s noodle trading business into a sprawling powerhouse with assets worth some $375 billion, with dozens of affiliates stretching from electronics and insurance to shipbuilding and construction.
“Lee is such a symbolic figure in South Korea’s spectacular rise and how South Korea embraced globalization, that his death will be remembered by so many Koreans,” said Chung Sun Sup, chief executive officer of corporate researcher firm Chaebul.com.
He is the latest second-generation leader of a South Korean family-controlled conglomerate to die, leaving potentially thorny succession issues for the third generation.
Lee’s son Jay Y. Lee has been embroiled in legal troubles linked to a merger of two Samsung affiliates that helped Lee assume greater control of the group’s flagship Samsung Electronics.
The younger Lee served jail time in his role in a bribery scandal that triggered the impeachment of then-President Park Geun-hye. He is facing a retrial over the case, and a separate trial on charges of accounting fraud and stock price manipulation kicked off this week.
The death of Lee, South Korea’s richest with a net worth of $20.9 billion according to Forbes, is set to prompt investor interest in a potential restructuring of the group involving his stakes in key Samsung companies such as Samsung Life and Samsung Electronics.
Samsung Life is the biggest shareholder of the group’s crown jewel Samsung Electronics, and Lee owns 20.76% of the insurance firm.
Lee died with his family by his side, including Jay Y. Lee, the Samsung Electronics vice chairman, the conglomerate said.
“Chairman Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business. His 1993 declaration of ‘New Management’ was the motivating driver of the company’s vision to deliver the best technology to help advance global society,” Samsung said in a statement.
During his lifetime, Samsung Electronics developed from a second-tier TV maker to the world’s biggest technology firm by revenue — seeing off Japanese brands Sony, Sharp Corp. and Panasonic Corp. in chips, TVs and displays; ending Nokia Oyj’s handset supremacy and beating Apple Inc. in smartphones.
“His legacy will be everlasting,” Samsung said.
Chung at Chaebul.com said, “Immediate attention will be given to the roughly 5% stake Lee has in Samsung Electronics,” and how this will be distributed to his family.


Time is running out for Brexit trade deal, UK minister says

Updated 30 min 58 sec ago

Time is running out for Brexit trade deal, UK minister says

  • Both sides are demanding concessions from the other on fishing, state aid and how to resolve any future disputes
  • George Eustice: We really are now running out of time

LONDON: Britain and the European Union are running out of time to clinch a Brexit trade deal but if good progress is made this week then the talks could be extended, Environment Secretary George Eustice said on Monday.
With just over four weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU’s orbit on Dec. 31, both sides are demanding concessions from the other on fishing, state aid and how to resolve any future disputes.
“We really are now running out of time, this is the crucial week, we need to get a breakthrough,” Eustice told Sky.
“I really do think we are now in to the final week or 10 days, of course if great progress were made this week and you’re nearly there it’s always possible to extend those negotiations,” he said.
Britain formally left the EU on Jan. 31 but has been in a transition period since then under which rules on trade, travel and business remain unchanged. From the start of 2021 it will be treated by Brussels as a third country.
Talks between EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and British chief negotiator David Frost continued through Sunday. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was a very significant week for Brexit.
“David Frost had made clear that we’re continuing the negotiations because we still think there is a prospect that we can get an agreement and while there is we should persevere with those,” Eustice said.