Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, head of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, dies at 78

Lee helped grow his father Lee Byung-chull’s noodle trading business into a powerhouse, with dozens of affiliates stretching from electronics and insurance to shipbuilding and construction.

Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, head of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, dies at 78

Former Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee (C) tours the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with his wife Hong Ra-hee (L) and daughter Lee Seo-hyun in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 9, 2010. Reuters file

Seoul, October 25

Lee Kun-hee, charismatic leader of Samsung Group, South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, died on Sunday, the company said, six months after he was hospitalised for a heart attack.

Lee, who was 78, helped grow his father Lee Byung-chull’s noodle trading business into a powerhouse, with dozens of affiliates stretching from electronics and insurance to shipbuilding and construction.

He died with his family by his side, including his son, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, the conglomerate said.

Lee is the latest second-generation leader of a South Korean’s family-controlled conglomerates to die, leaving thorny succession issues for the third generation.

“Chairman Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business. His 1993 declaration of ‘New Management’ was the motivating driver of the company’s vision to deliver the best technology to help advance global society,” Samsung said in a statement.

During his lifetime, Samsung Electronics developed from a second-tier TV maker to the world’s biggest technology firm by revenue - seeing off Japanese brands Sony, Sharp Corp and Panasonic Corp in chips, TVs and displays; ending Nokia Oyj’s handset supremacy and beating Apple Inc in smartphones.

“His legacy will be everlasting,” Samsung said. Reuters

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