Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee passed away on Sunday at the age of 78, the company reports. Lee was confined to the sick bed for six years due to heart problems.
Charismatic Lee turned Samsung into South Korea’s largest multinational corporation and a global market leader in smartphones, semiconductors and televisions. He was according to the business magazine Forbes With a wealth of about $ 20.9 billion (over 17.6 billion euros), the richest person in South Korea. “His legacy will last forever,” Samsung said in response to his death.
But Lee was also controversial. For example, he has been convicted of bribery and tax avoidance. His company is also under constant fire because of Samsung’s extraordinary economic power in South Korea, a lack of transparency and dubious asset transfers within his family.
It is unclear who will succeed Lee. His children have not agreed in the past six years on who the lion’s share of his shares belong to. Experts expect a battle between his heirs.
Samsung is a so-called chaebol. This term is used in South Korea for industrial conglomerates run by families. This corporate structure allowed the country to be rebuilt quickly after the war. But the structure is nowadays much criticized because of the opaque management.
Lee Nak-yon, leader of the South Korean ruling party and former prime minister, praised Lee’s leadership, but was also critical. “It cannot be denied that he strengthened the chaebol economy and failed to recognize trade unions,” said the politician.