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Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-Hee Dies Aged 78

Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-Hee Dies Aged 78

The chairman of Samsung Electronics, Lee Kun-hee, has died aged 78.

During his tenure, Mr Lee helped transform the company into a global giant, becoming the world's largest producer of smartphones and memory chips.

He is survived by his wife Hong Ra-hee, son Lee Jae-yong, and his two daughters Lee Boo-jin and Lee Seo-hyun.

His passing was announced in a statement from Samsung.

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It read: "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Kun-hee Lee, chairman of Samsung Electronics.

"Chairman Lee passed away on October 25 with his family, including vice-chairman Jay Y Lee, by his side... His legacy will be everlasting."

Mr Lee passed away at the age of 78. Credit: PA
Mr Lee passed away at the age of 78. Credit: PA

According to reports in Forbes, Mr Lee was the richest man in South Korea, with a fortune worth $20 billion (£15.3bn).

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Samsung was founded by Mr Lee's father, Lee Byung-chul, and had originally dealt in dried fish, noodles, and fruit.

When he inherited the chairmanship in 1987, Samsung was one of the largest companies in South Korea, but after taking control, he put much more of a focus on global expansion.

During the 27 years of his most active input into the firm, it became the world's largest producer of smartphones and memory chips.

As well as selling its own range of Galaxy phones, Samsung also manufactures the screens and microchips for its fiercest rivals Apple and Google.

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Geoffrey Cain, who wrote a book on Samsung, said Mr Lee was instrumental in the company's success.

He said: "Lee was a master of careful, cautious, and shrewd decision-making."

The businessman transformed Samsung into one of the biggest tech companies in the world. Credit: PA
The businessman transformed Samsung into one of the biggest tech companies in the world. Credit: PA

Even while suffering from lung cancer, in 1982 he took the 'incredibly risky decision' to 'enter semiconductors', Cain says, which 'allowed Samsung to turn Korea into a Republic of Samsung'.

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The cause of death has not yet been confirmed, but it was widely known that Mr Lee had been bedridden since suffering a major heart attack back in 2014.

Following his illness, Mr Lee's son and vice-chairman, Lee Jae-yong - known professionally as Jay Y. Lee - took over as the head of the company.

However, it has been a turbulent reign, with Jay Y. Lee being sentenced to five years in prison for bribery and offences linked to former president Park Geun-hye.

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He was released from prison after a year, in 2018.

According to reports, he is now facing yet another trial, which is tied to the original scandal, accused of accounting fraud and stock manipulation.

His father was convicted twice of charges related to bribery and tax evasion, though was pardoned on both occasions by the sitting president.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: World News, Business, South Korea, Samsung

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Dominic Smithers

Dominic graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in French and History. Like you, Dom has often questioned how much use a second language has been. Well, after stints working at the Manchester Evening News, the Accrington Observer and the Macclesfield Express, along with never setting foot in France, he realised the answer is surprisingly little. But I guess, c'est la vie. Contact us at [email protected]