The Man, Who Made Samsung A global Brand, Dies
Lee Kun-hee, who built Samsung Electronics into a global powerhouse in smartphones, semiconductors and televisions, died on Sunday after spending more than six years in hospital following a heart attack, the company said.
Lee, who was 78, grew the Samsung Group into South Korea’s biggest conglomerate and became the country’s richest person. But he was also convicted of bribery and tax evasion, and he and the empire he built were vilified for wielding huge economic clout, and for opaque governance and dubious transfers of the family wealth, Reuters reports.
“Lee is such a symbolic figure in South Korea’s spectacular rise and how South Korea embraced globalisation, that his death will be remembered by so many Koreans,” said Chung Sun-sup, chief executive of corporate researcher firm Chaebul.com.
Samsung Group affiliates’ 326.7 trillion won ($289.6 billion) in 2019 revenue was worth about 17% of South Korea’s gross domestic product, according to Fair Trade Commission data and a Reuters calculation.
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 $375 billion, including dozens of affiliates stretching from electronics and insurance to shipbuilding and construction.
“His legacy will be everlasting,” Samsung said in a statement.
Lee is the latest second-generation leader of a South Korean family-controlled conglomerate, or chaebol, to die, leaving potentially thorny succession issues for the third generation.