SEOUL — Lee Kun-hee, the man who built Samsung Electronics into a global tech giant, died on Sunday aged 78, with his family members, including his son and successor Lee Jae-yong, at his side, the company said.

The statement from Samsung did not specify the cause of his death, but the ailing leader had been incapacitated for years after his 2014 heart attack after which his son took over running the company. He was also treated for lung cancer in the late 1990s.

“Chairman Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business,” the statement said Sunday.

How Samsung moved beyond its exploding phones

Under Lee’s three decades of leadership, Samsung Electronics transformed from a small television maker into the world’s biggest producer of smartphones, electronic displays and memory chips. Since he inherited the company in 1987 from his father Lee Byung-chul — who founded Samsung as a small trading company — Lee Kun-hee embarked on a quality improvement drive to shed Samsung’s reputation for cheap copycat appliances.

“Change everything except for your wife and children,” Lee Kun-hee told an emergency meeting with executives to address what he saw as a “life-or-death situation,” facing the company. Sunday’s company statement commemorated his innovation-driven leadership by referring to that moment: “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 Electronics is the flagship of Samsung Group, a sprawling power house with dozens of affiliates that stretch into shipbuilding and life insurance. Samsung is the largest and most powerful of what are known as “chaebol,” family-controlled conglomerates that dominate the South Korean economy. Many chaebol tycoons, including Lee Kun-hee, were convicted of white-collar crimes but then granted pardons as the Korean government and the public sought to prevent any economic fallout from their absence.

Lee Kun-hee himself was convicted twice of bribing the country’s president and tax evasion, for both of which he got pardoned.

His passing raises questions about the succession plans for the opaque three-generation dynasty under which Samsung has operated. During the past six years Lee Kun-hee had been lying in hospital, his only son Lee Jae-yong has been serving as Samsung’s de facto chief.

Five things Samsung fixed for its next folding phone, the Galaxy Z Fold2

Samsung heir released from prison after appeal against bribery conviction

Samsung faces a crucial smartphone launch as its top executive faces a sentencing hearing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Thai holiday over, Chinese visitors fly home to Wuhan

BANGKOK — The holiday was over for almost 80 Chinese visitors to Thailand. They were lining up at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to catch a flight home — to Wuhan, their hometown and the epicenter of a viral outbreak that has…

South Africa’s coronavirus cases rise to 38, Health Ministry says

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa rose to 38 on Saturday from 24 a day earlier, the Health Ministry said, as the government weighs new measures to contain the outbreak. Seven of the…

Indian police say tainted liquor kills at least 21 people

NEW DELHI — Indian police said Friday that at least 21 people have died in a northern state over the past three days after drinking tainted alcohol. The police chief for Punjab state, Dinkar Gupta, said the first five deaths…

Closed stores, grounded airlines as COVID-19 limits business

A growing number of retailers are closing stores or limiting their operating hours as customers remain home in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Over the weekend, some Canadian mall owners announced they would cut back shopping…