Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-Hee Dies Aged 78


Sammy also released the following message: "President Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the innovative world leader and industrial power of a local company".

Lee Kun-hee inherited control from his father and during his almost 30 years of leadership, Samsung Electronics Co. became a global brand and the world's largest maker of smartphones, televisions and memory chips.

Lee's aggressive bets on new businesses, especially semiconductors, helped grow the conglomerate his father Lee Byung-chull built from a noodle trading business into a global powerhouse with assets worth US$375 billion (RM1.5 trillion), including dozens of affiliates stretching from electronics and insurance to shipbuilding and construction.

Samsung Electronics became the world's top maker of computer memory chips in 1992, the same year it became the first to develop 64-megabyte DRAM chips, according to the company. The company's new mission: create high-quality products, even if it meant lower sales.

However, it has been a turbulent reign, with Jay Y. Lee being sentenced to five years in prison for bribery and offences linked to former president Park Geun-hye.

"With Lee passing, Samsung Group is now facing the biggest governance shakeup since the merger between Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T" in 2015, said Ahn Sang-hee, an expert in corporate governance at Daishin Economic Research Institute.

"His legacy will be everlasting", Samsung said in a statement.

Mr Lee was reinstated as chairman of Samsung Electronics in 2010 but suffered a heart attack in 2014 that kept him in hospital.

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But the president has remained ebullient and constantly sought to project confidence despite trailing in national polls. Trump covered four states - Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and OH - while Biden rallied in Pennsylvania.

Still, occasional pronouncements on business by the tycoon, who died at 78 on Sunday, reverberated through the country.

A Samsung statement says Lee died on Sunday with his family members, including his son and de facto company chief Lee Jae-yong, by his side.

A potential restructuring of the group could be on the horizon, as Lee owned 20.76% of the insurance company, Samsung Life, which is the biggest shareholder of the Samsung Group's most important company, Samsung Electronics.

Lee was born 9 January 1942, in the southeastern city of Daegu during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

In 2008, Lee was indicted by special prosecutors on charges of operating slush fund and departed from management. He helped Samsung become one of the most powerful companies in technology, turning him into the richest man in South Korea.

Condolences poured in from key politicians, while business leaders attended his wake at Samsung Medical Centre's funeral hall in Gangnam. Instead, financial struggles and worries about COVID-19 will limit the number of devices companies can make and how many phones people will actually buy.

"No one could understand Mr Lee Kun-hee back then, when everyone was trying to sell in big volumes to increase revenue", Prof Chang told The Straits Times.