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. “Our deepest condolences go to his family, loved ones and loved ones. His legacy will be eternal. “
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Lee Kun-hee inherited control from his father, and over his nearly 30 years of leadership, Samsung Electronics Co. has grown into a global brand and the world’s largest manufacturer of smartphones, TVs, and memory chips. Samsung sells Galaxy phones while also making the displays and microchips that power rivals Apple iPhones and Google Android phones.
Samsung has helped make the country’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.
His death comes at a complex time for Samsung.
When he was hospitalized, Samsung’s once lucrative mobile business faced threats from upstart manufacturers in China and other emerging markets. There was strong pressure to innovate in its traditionally strong material business, to reform a stifling hierarchical culture and to improve its corporate governance and transparency.
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Samsung was trapped in the 2016-2017 corruption scandal that led to the impeachment and jail 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.
In a previous scandal, Lee Kun-Hee was convicted in 2008 of illegal stock transactions, tax evasion and bribery aimed at passing his wealth and control of his business to his three children.
The late Lee was a stern and concise leader who focused on overall strategies, leaving the details and day-to-day management to the leaders.
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His near absolute authority has enabled the company to make bold decisions in the rapidly evolving tech industry, such as spending billions to build new production lines for memory chips and display panels even as the crisis hits. Global Financial 2008 was unfolding. These risky moves fueled Samsung’s rise to power.
Lee was born on January 9, 1942 in Daegu, in the southeast of the city, during Japanese colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula. His father Lee Byung-chull had founded an export company there in 1938 and after the Korean War of 1950-1953 he transformed the company into an electronics and home appliance manufacturer and the first major trading company. from the country.
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Lee Byung-chull was often called one of the fathers of modern industrial South Korea. Lee Kun-Hee was the third son, and his business legacy from his father has resisted the tradition of family wealth going to the eldest. One of Lee Kun-Hee’s brothers sued for a larger portion of Samsung but lost the case.
When Lee Kun-Hee inherited control from his father in 1987, Samsung relied on Japanese technology to produce televisions and took its first steps in exporting microwaves and refrigerators.
The company was expanding its semiconductor factories after joining the business in 1974 by acquiring a bankrupt company.
A watershed moment came in 1993. Lee Kun-Hee made sweeping changes to Samsung after a two-month trip abroad convinced him that the company needed to improve the quality of its products.
In a speech to Samsung executives, he said, “Let’s change everything but our women and our children.”
Not all of his moves were successful.
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One notable failure was the group’s expansion into the automotive industry in the 1990s, driven in part by Lee Kun-Hee’s passion for luxury cars. Samsung then sold the bankrupt Samsung engine to Renault. The company has also been frequently criticized for its failure to respect labor rights. Cancer cases among workers at its semiconductor factories have been ignored for years.
In 2020, Lee Jae-yong said heredity transfers to Samsung would end, promising that the management rights he had inherited would not pass to his children. He also said Samsung would stop suppressing attempts by employees to organize unions, although union activists have questioned its sincerity.
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.
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Critics note in particular how Lee Kun-Hee’s only son gained immense wealth through unlisted shares of Samsung companies that later went public.
In 2007, a former corporate lawyer accused Samsung of wrongdoing in a book that became a bestseller in South Korea. Lee Kun-Hee was subsequently charged with tax evasion and other charges.
Lee resigned as chairman of Samsung Electronics and was convicted and given a three-year suspended prison sentence. He received a presidential pardon in 2009 and returned to the leadership of Samsung in 2010.
This story contains biographical material compiled by former business writer AP YouKyung Lee.
© 2020 The Canadian Press