Lee Kun-hee, Man Behind Samsung’s Rise to Tech Titan, Passes Away at 78 | South Korea


Lee Kun-hee, the ailing president of Samsung Electronics who turned the small TV maker into a global consumer electronics giant, has died.In a statement, Samsung said Lee, 78, died on Sunday with his family members, including his son and de facto business leader Lee Jae-yong, by his side.

Lee Kun-Hee had been hospitalized since May 2014 after suffering a heart attack, and young Lee ran Samsung, South Korea’s largest company.

“At Samsung, we will all cherish his memory and are grateful for the journey we shared with him,” the Samsung statement read.

“President Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into a global leader in innovation and industrial strength of a local business,” he said, adding, “His legacy will be eternal.”

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

Along the way, Lee was twice convicted and pardoned for crimes, including bribing a president.

Samsung has helped make South Korea’s economy the fourth largest in Asia.

Its businesses encompass shipbuilding, life insurance, construction, hospitality, amusement park operations and more. Samsung Electronics alone accounts for 20% of the equity capital in South Korea’s main stock market.

Lee leaves behind immense wealth, with Forbes estimating his fortune at $ 16 billion in January 2017.

South Koreans are both proud of Samsung’s global success and concerned about the company and the Lee family above the law and influence in almost every corner of society.

In 1996, Lee was given a two-year suspended prison sentence for corporate contributions to former President Roh Tae-woo. He was later pardoned and over a decade later, in 2008, he was convicted of illegal stock transactions, tax evasion and bribery aimed at passing his wealth and corporate control to his three children.

He received a presidential pardon in 2009 and returned to the leadership of Samsung in 2010.

Samsung was also trapped in the 2016-2017 corruption scandal that led to the impeachment and imprisonment of then-president Park Geun-hye.

Its executives, including young Lee, have come under investigation by prosecutors who believe Samsung executives bribed Park to gain government support for a smooth transition from leadership from father to son.


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