“President Lee was a dreamer who turned Samsung into the world’s leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from local businesses,” the statement said on Sunday.
Under Lee’s leadership, Samsung Electronics has grown from a small TV maker to the world’s largest maker of smartphones, electronic displays and memory chips in three decades. Having inherited the company in 1987 from his father, Lee Byeong-chul – who founded Samsung as a small trading company ̵
“Change everything except your wife and children,” Lee Kun-hee said at an emergency meeting with executives to discuss what he sees as a “life or death situation” facing the company. The company’s statement on Sunday noted its innovation-led leadership, citing the moment: “His 1993 Declaration on New Management was the motivating engine of the company’s vision to deliver the best technology to help for the progress of global society.
Samsung Electronics is the flagship of the Samsung Group, a sprawling power plant with dozens of subsidiaries spanning shipbuilding and life insurance. Samsung is the largest and most powerful of the so-called “chaebol”, controlled by a family of conglomerates that dominate the South Korean economy. Many Chaebol tycoons, including Lee Kun-hee, were convicted of white-collar crimes, but were later pardoned as the Korean government and the public tried to prevent any economic consequences from their absence.
Lee Kun-hee himself was twice convicted of bribing the country’s president and tax evasion, for which both were pardoned.
His move raises questions about plans to inherit the three-generation opaque dynasty under which Samsung has operated. For the past six years, Lee Kun-hee has been in hospital, with his only son, Lee Je-Yong, de facto head of Samsung.