Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee dies at 78

Alonzo Simpson
October 26, 2020

The ailing chairman of South Korea's Samsung Group, Lee Kun-hee, died on Sunday, the company announced.

"Chairman Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business", Samsung said in a statement. Live Breaking News Headlines And Coronavirus Updates on October 25, 2020.

Lee Kun-Hee's net worth and stakes in several Samsung companies are expected to spur the interest of investors after his death.

Samsung Electronics said in a statement that Lee died with his family by his side.

It is South Korea's largest family-controlled business conglomerate and helped make the nation's economy Asia's fourth-largest.

Under him, Samsung grew from a small trading firm to be the world's largest manufacturer of smartphones and memory chips.

The presidential office said South Korean President Moon Jae-in had plans to send condolence flowers to the funeral, and send chief of staff Noh Young-min and senior presidential secretary Lee Ho-seung to pay respects on his behalf.

Mr Lee, the third son of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul, was widely considered one of the most important architects of South Korea's post-war economic boom.

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Lee, who was 78, grew the Samsung Group into South Korea's biggest conglomerate and became the country's richest person.

During his tenure, Samsung heavily invested in R&D and changed its entire product line.

He studied at Japan's prestigious Waseda University and earned an MBA at George Washington University in the United States.

His eldest son, Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, served as the de-facto head of the conglomerate. But under his leadership radical reforms were introduced at the company.

"The leadership he showed will be a great example and courage for our companies as they overcome the crisis and challenges ahead amid hard times we're under due to the coronavirus", President Moon was quoted as saying to the Lee family, according to the presidential office.

Lee Jae-yong spent nearly a year in prison after being found guilty on multiple charges of bribery and corruption connected to the now-removed President Park Geun-hye.

Prof Chang said: "Lee Kun-hee was a very charismatic leader and people followed his orders". He had been comatose since suffering a heart attack in 2014. The bribery charges were related to Lee offering 8.6 billion won ($7 million/€6.4 billion) in bribes, including horses, to the daughter of a confidante of former President Park Geun-hye, to win government support for the controversial merger of two Samsung affiliates as a key step toward his succession.

Samsung's growth under Lee is undeniable, though it's not without controversy.

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