Samsung Electronics Company announced the death of its chairman, Lee Kun-Hee. They stated that he died last October 25th with family, including his son, Vice-chairman Lee Jae-Yong, by his side. He aged 78 years old.
The cause of death wasn’t disclosed, but Lee had been incapacitated for several years after having a heart attack in 2014; this causes him to withdraw from public life. Lee Jae-Yong, known a Jay Y. Lee, has been widely assumed to take over upon his father’s passing and has been observed as the de facto leader in the past few years.
Lee Kun-hee was a controversial figure that played a huge part in pushing Samsung from a cheap TV and appliances maker to one of the world’s most prominent technology brands. He has become the richest man in South Korea, along with the Samsung group contributing around a fifth of the country’s GDP. In a statement, Samsung states Lee’s declaration of “new management” 27 years ago was “the motivating driver of the company’s vision to deliver the best technology to help advance global society.”
However, all prominent businessmen experience a downfall. In the past, Lee had found himself in legal trouble. He was found guilty for bribing President Roh Tae-woo by a slush fund in 1995, tax evasion, and embezzlement in 2008 and was formally pardoned for each conviction. The second pardon came in 2009 has been made “so that Lee could take back his place at the International Olympic Committee and form a better situation for the 2018 Olympics to take place in Pyeongchang,” said South Korea’s justice minister before.
Lee’s death had re-ignited inevitable speculation over the succession process. While Lee Jae-Yong had been groomed to becoming a chairman, he had legal issues of his own since his father’s incapacitation, spending a year in jail for his role in a corruption scandal that has brought down the previous South Korean President Park Geun-Hye. South Korean law also meant that anyone assuming Lee’s assets would face paying billions of dollars in inheritance tax, and it may force them to reduce their stake in the company.