Ailing Samsung Electronics chief Lee Kun-Hee dies

Alonzo Simpson
October 25, 2020

Lee Kun-Hee, Samsung's Electronics chairman is dead.

Lee Kun-Hee had transformed Samsung from a local business in South Korea into a world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse. Live Breaking News Headlines And Coronavirus Updates on October 25, 2020.

Lee Kun-hee had been hospitalised for years and the younger Lee has been in charge of company affairs.

Lee passed away on Sunday with his family by his side, the company said in a statement, without mentioning the cause of death.

Samsung stands at the center of the South Korean economy, with its outbound shipments accounting for over 20 percent of Asia's fourth-largest economy's exports.

The senior Lee holds a 4.18 percent stake in Samsung Electronics and a 20.76 percent in Samsung Life, and interests in numerous affiliates, with his assets estimated at up to 20 trillion won.

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At the time, Samsung was seen as a producer of cheap, low-quality products.

"Let's change everything except our wives and kids", Lee said in 1993. The firm then burned its entire mobile phone stock, consisting of 150,000 handsets. He had been comatose since suffering a heart attack in 2014.

Even so, he seldom ventured out from the high walls of his private compound in central Seoul to visit the company headquarters, earning him the nickname the "hermit king".

The third son of Samsung's founder studied at universities in Japan and the United States, and assumed the post of chairman in 1987. He was also known for his love of movies, horseriding and exotic supercars.

He became vice chairman of the group's construction and trading arm at the age of 36, and became group chairman nine years later, shortly after his father's death. He was indicted in 2008 for creating slush funds, and Kim Yong-chul, a former legal council for the company, said publicly that Lee had bribed politicians, judges and prosecutors. He was handed a three-year suspended jail sentence for tax evasion but was given a presidential pardon in 2009 and went on to lead South Korea's successful bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. Little was revealed about his condition, leaving him shrouded in mystery even in his final days.

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