By Business Editor Lee Sam-sun
Where is Korea’s biggest business conglomerate, Samsung Business Group, headed now after the passage of former Chairman Lee Kun-hee?
It appears that the transition is taking place to his son, Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong. In fact, the takeover of management of Korea’s top business group has already begun taking place while the former chairman was bed-ridden since 2014 and stayed in a de-facto state of coma.
In the case of transfer of chairmanship between the former and incoming business tycoons at Korea’s top business groups, the time span was not overly too long.
Just-deceased Chairman Lee Kun-hee of the Samsung Business Group reportedly took over the helm of the Samsung conglomerate in a little over 20 days, and it is expected that in the case of Lee Jae-yong, too, succession is possible following a decision at the meeting of the executives--pending formal registration.
In the case of Chairman Chey Tae-won of the SK Business Group, reports indicate that it took only one week to complete the transfer of management between the old and new chairmen.
In the case of the LG Group, Chairman Koo Kwang-mo succeeded to the chairmanship within one month.
At the Samsung Group, Lee Jae-yong is already the de-facto chairman, and is expected to stay on the job—unless the on-going legal problems will adversely affect the process of transfer.
The public opinion is already in favor of Lee Jae-yong’s takeover of the job, and it is widely reported that he is already the de-facto chairman at Korea’s top business group, a post which had been led by the late Chairman Lee Kun-hee for the past 27 years before he died at the age of 78.
According to Korean-language news reports, assumption of chairmanship of the Samsung Group by Lee Jae-yong is only a matter of formalities and official assumption of the position can come at any time following the end of the period of mourning.
Appointment of Lee Jae-yong as new chairman can be made either through the decision of the shareholder’s general meeting or extraordinary meeting of the shareholders.
Assumption of chairmanship at the top business groups has frequently been done in the form of a decision made at the executive meeting and this is also true of the Hyundai Business Group where Chung Eui-sun became the new chairman.
As was briefly mentioned afore, the late Chairman Lee Kun-hee formally took over the title of the former chairman on Dec. 1, 1987 only a little over 20 days after former Chairman Lee Byung-chul passed away.
Following the passage of former Chairman Lee Kun-hee, the Samsung Business Group has come under the leadership and command of Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong. Following the strokes suffered by the late Chairman Lee Kun-hee in May 2014, the Samsung Group has actually been led by Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong.
In June 2018, Lee Jae-yong was confirmed to be the leader of the Samsung Group based on a decision made by the Fair Transactions Committee of the Republic of Korea.
Thus, all the affiliated and related business companies of the Samsung Group are expected to come under the command and control of new acting Chairman Lee Jae-yong.
However, the young new leader of Samsung has mountains of hard decisions to make.
Trade dispute is in progress between the United States and China, where the stakes of Samsung are very high. There also are legal problems to be solved involving the new leader of Samsung.
Personal history of acting Chairman Lee Jae-yong (based on excerpts from Wikipedia):
Lee Jae-yong was born on June 23, 1969, and is known professionally in the West as Jay Y. Lee.
He is the eldest child and only son between the late Chairman Lee Kun-hee and his spouse, Madam Hong Ra-hee. Lee Jae-yong is referred to as the "Crown Prince of Samsung" by the South Korean media and speaks Korean, English, and Japanese. As of June 2020, Lee’s properties are estimated to be worth US$6.7 billion, making him the fourth wealthiest person in the Republic of Korea (south).
In 2014, Lee was named the world's 35th most powerful person and the most powerful Korean by Forbes Magazine's List of The World's Most Powerful People along with his father.
Lee Jae-yong was born in Seoul to Lee Kun-hee. He attended Kyungbok High School in Seoul. He received his B.A. in East Asian history from Seoul National University, and his M.B.A. from Keio University in Japan. He attended Harvard Business School for about five years in pursuit of a Doctor of Business Administration degree, but did not graduate.
He has two younger sisters, Lee Boo-jin, Lee Seo-hyun, and was the older brother of the late Lee Yoon-hyung.
Lee has one son (born in 1997) and one daughter (born in 2004) with his ex-wife Lim Se-ryung, whom he divorced in 2009. Lee enjoys golf and horseback riding.
Lee Jae-yong started working for Samsung in 1991. He began serving as Vice President of Strategic Planning and then as "Chief Customer Officer", a management position created exclusively for Lee. His prospects for future company leadership dimmed when his father Lee Kun-hee stepped down as Chairman due to tax evasion.
In December 2009, however, his succession prospects were revived when Lee became the Chief Operating Officer of Samsung Electronics. Since December 2012, he has been Vice Chairman of Samsung. He is one of the main shareholders of Samsung's financial services subsidiary, owning 11 percent of Samsung SDS.
In January 2017, Lee was accused "of bribery, embezzlement and perjury" by the South Korean prosecutor's office, and after an investigation he was arrested on Feb. 16, 2017. On Aug. 25, 2017 Lee was sentenced to 5 years in prison after being found guilty of corruption. On Feb. 5, 2018, the appeals court suspended his sentence and reduced it to 2.5 years, releasing him.
According to an article in Reuters, Lee is known for his "cold" determination and polite, quiet demeanor. Lee is known to reply personally to e-mails, and assumes a light-hearted attitude with reporters.