Samsung president and richest man in South Korea, Lee Kun-hee, dies

Publication: Sunday, October 25, 2020 10:01

Samsung Group today announced the death, at the age of 78, of its chairman, Lee Kun-hee, the businessman who transformed the conglomerate into a multinational giant and the richest man and one of the most powerful in South Korea.

Samsung said in a statement that Lee died today accompanied by his family, including his eldest son and group vice chairman Lee Jae-yong, who had been in charge of the conglomerate since his father was bedridden. over six years ago. after suffering a heart attack and should officially inherit his post.

Lee Kun-hee, the third son of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul, had the largest fortune in South Korea with an estimated net worth of over $ 20,000 million (roughly 16,860 million euros), according to Forbes, and for many He has come to wield more power and influence at one point than the presidents of the Asian country.

Lee will be remembered as the man who inherited a large conglomerate and turned it into a multinational titan led by tech giant Samsung Electronics.

Author of ‘New Management’, Samsung’s ‘Bible’

The businessman was born in the last years of the Japanese occupation, in 1942, in Uiryeong, county of South Gyeongsang province (south-east of the country) where his family owned large tracts of land. His father had taken advantage of the family capital to found in 1938 a food trading company which he called Samsung (“three stars” in Korean) and which in a very short time did business with almost all types of goods.

After studying at universities in Japan (like his father) and the United States, Lee Geun-hee began working for Samsung in 1968, just as the consortium began manufacturing consumer electronics. Two decades later, in 1987, he assumed the presidency of the group after the death of his father and after having imposed himself in the process of succession of his two older brothers.

In mid-1993, he presented his famous “New Management” plan at a meeting at a Frankfurt hotel where he apparently urged the executives present to change “everything but their wives and children”. This strategy of “competing for quality over quantity” ultimately transformed Samsung Electronics from a second-rate television company to the largest maker of memory chips and phones on the planet.

The “New Management” plan is now considered the bible of the conglomerate which, in its human resources center in Seoul, has a replica of the Frankfurt meeting room that new Samsung recruits visit during their first training sessions.

Lee’s life as chairman of the largest national “chaebol” (the gigantic South Korean family conglomerates) and as a symbol of the economic modernity of a country which today has the 12th gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, also has its black spots.

By bribing the government or avoiding large-scale taxes, Lee has managed, as the leader of a group of companies that generate a reduction in this GDP, to avoid going to jail after receiving two presidential pardons.

The family controversy

His son and successor Lee Jae-yong, who spent a year behind bars between 2017 and 2018 after being found guilty of his participation in the so-called “Rasputina” corruption scheme, which led to the impeachment of the then president, did not suffer the same fate. South Korean, Park Geun-hye, sentenced to 32 years in prison.

Worst; Next week, the lawsuit against him will begin to repeat itself in this case after the Supreme Court ordered it last year, ruling that a string of millionaire payments Lee made in connection with the plot had failed. been taken into account.

Heir to the throne Samsung is also facing another lawsuit for alleged fraud and manipulation of stock market asset prices in connection with a controversial merger of two group companies carried out in 2015 to strengthen its leadership over the conglomerate.

By that time, his father had already been hospitalized for a year in a private wing of the hospital that Samsung has in south Seoul after suffering a heart attack that left him unfit until his death.

His condition has been the subject of countless rumors, since Lee Kun-hee was never seen in public again after the cardiovascular episode and there were media outlets that even claimed that the medical center had hidden his death so that those close to him have time to do so. link the succession and the hereditary process.

Although this is pure speculation, the truth is that it is calculated that by inheriting the shares held by the Patriarch, the Lee family will have to pay the treasury in the next 10 billion won (approximately 7,470 million won). euros / $ 8,860 million).

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