||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2007)|
January 9, 1942 |
Uiryeong, South Korea
|Alma mater||Waseda University|
|Occupation||Chairman of Samsung Electronics|
|Net worth||$12.6 billion USD (2013)|
|Revised Romanization||I Geon-hui|
Lee Kun-hee (born January 9, 1942) is a South Korean business magnate and chairman of Samsung Electronics. He had resigned in April 2008, owing to Samsung slush funds scandal, but returned on March 24, 2010. He speaks Korean, English, and Japanese. In 1996, Lee became a member of the International Olympic Committee. With an estimated net worth of $12.6 billion, he and his family rank among the Forbes richest people in the world. He is the third son of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chull.
Lee Kun-hee joined the Samsung Group in 1968 and took over the chairmanship on December 1, 1987, just two weeks after the death of his father and Samsung's founder Lee Byung-chull. In the early 1990s, believing that Samsung Group was overly focused on producing massive quantities of low-quality goods and that it was not prepared to compete in quality, Lee famously said in 1993 "Change everything except your wife and kids" and true to his word attempted to reform the profoundly Korean culture that had pervaded Samsung until this point. Foreign employees were brought in and local employees were shipped out as Lee tried to foster a more international attitude to doing business.
Under Lee's guidance, the company has been transformed from a Korean budget name into a major international force and arguably the most prominent Asian brand worldwide. One of the group's subsidiaries, Samsung Electronics, is now one of the world's leading developers and producers of semiconductors, and was listed in Fortune magazine's list of the 100 largest corporations in the world in 2007. Today Samsung's revenues are now 39 times what they were in 1987, it generates around 20 percent of South Korea's GDP, and Lee is the country's richest man.
On April 21, 2008, he officially resigned, and stated: "We, including myself, have caused troubles to the nation with the special probe; I deeply apologize for that, and I'll take full responsibility for everything, both legally and morally." On December 29, 2009, the South Korean government moved to pardon Lee Kun-hee.
On March 24, 2010, he announced his return to Samsung Electronics as its chairman.
In an interview, Lee expressed pride in the fact that Samsung attracts the brightest minds in South Korea, but added that his new goal is to attract talent from all over the world to ensure that Samsung will remain one of the top companies in the world for years.
Notable Samsung industrial subsidiaries include Samsung Electronics (the world's largest information technology company measured by 2011 revenues), Samsung Heavy Industries (the world's second-largest shipbuilder measured by 2010 revenues), Samsung Engineering and Samsung C&T (respectively the world's 35th- and 72nd-largest construction companies), and Samsung Techwin (a weapons technology and optoelectronics manufacturer). Other notable subsidiaries include Samsung Life Insurance (the world's 14th-largest life insurance company), Samsung Everland (operator of Everland Resort, the oldest theme park in South Korea) and Cheil Worldwide (the world's 19th-largest advertising agency measured by 2010 revenues).
Samsung produces around a fifth of South Korea's total exports and its revenues are larger than many countries' GDP; in 2006, it would have been the world's 35th-largest economy. The company has a powerful influence on South Korea's economic development, politics, media and culture, and has been a major driving force behind the "Miracle on the Han River".
On January 14, 2008, Lee's home and office were raided by the Korean police for an ongoing probe into accusations that Samsung is responsible for a slush fund used to bribe influential prosecutors, judges, and political figures in South Korea. On April 4, 2008 he denied allegations against him for his role in the Samsung Slush Funds scandal. After the second round of questioning by the South Korean prosecutors which occurred on April 11, 2008, Lee was quoted by reporters saying "I am responsible for everything. I will assume full moral and legal responsibility.” On July 16, 2008, The New York Times reported that the Seoul Central District Court found him guilty on charges of financial wrongdoing and tax evasion. Prosecutors requested that Lee be sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 350 billion won (approx $312 million USD). The court fined him just 110 billion won (approx $98 million USD) — a relative pittance for the world's 106th richest man. and sentenced him to 3 years suspended jail time. Lee has not responded to the verdict. Months later South Korean president Lee Myung-bak gave Lee Kun-hee a second personal pardon so that he could remain on the International Olympic Committee.
In 2010 the company's former chief legal counsel Kim Yong-chul published a book called Think Samsung. It revealed alleged shocking details of Lee Kun-hee's personal corruption, claiming that he stole up to 10 trillion won (approx $8.9 billion USD) from Samsung subsidiaries, destroyed evidence, and bribed government officials to ensure the smooth transfer of power to his son.
His siblings and some of their children are also executives of major Korean business groups. As of 2010, his son Lee Jae-yong is vice chairman of Samsung Electronics. Lee Boo-jin, his eldest daughter is president and CEO of Hotel Shilla, a luxury hotel chain, as well as president of Samsung Everland, a theme park and resort operator that is "widely seen as the de facto holding company for the conglomerate" according to Associated Press. Lee's eldest brother's son is currently chairman and CEO of the CJ Group, a company holding businesses in food, beverages and entertainment. His second eldest brother's sons ran Saehan Media, one of the largest blank media producers. His older sister is the owner of Hansol Group, the country's largest paper manufacturer and producer of electronics and telecommunications. One of his sisters is married to Koo Ja-hak, brother of former chairman of the LG Group and himself a former chairman of LG Semiconductor. He is currently running one of the largest food services firms in Korea. His younger sister, Lee Myung-hee is currently the chairwoman of the Shinsegae Group, the largest retail company in Korea, with major holdings such as the Shinsegae Department Stores and E-Mart. His daughter Lee Yoon-hyung committed suicide in 2005.
Lee's older brothers Lee Maeng-hee and Lee Sook-hee initiated legal action against him in February 2012, asking a South Korean court to award them shares of Samsung companies totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, which they claim their father willed to them. Court hearings began in May 2012.
- In 2004, Lee received the Legion of Honour from French government at Paris.
- In September 2006, Lee received the James A. Van Fleet Award from the Korea Society.
- "One genius can feed millions of others. For the upcoming era where creativity will be the most important driver of business success, we need to hire the best. The economic value of one genius is more than $1 billion."
- "The business world has changed significantly. It is becoming increasingly difficult to foresee what sectors will prosper or opportunities will arise in the future. But if you hire the best and brightest, you will solve whatever issues arise in the future."
- "It is difficult to understand the true dimensions of a problem or a situation when so many things seem to be happening on the surface. This is why I urge my employees to analyze a given situation from various perspectives. This way of thinking allows one to see the true aspects of a situation, which, in turn, allows one to respond wisely in conclusion."
- "Firing a CEO because his financial performance was poor is simply a bad decision. I've encountered several situations where a CEO once performed poorly in one sector then went on to perform much better elsewhere. This is one of the reasons Japanese corporations were able to compete successfully against US corporations."
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- Economist.com Succession at Samsung – Crowning success
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- "[초 국가기업] <上> 삼성 매출>싱가포르 GDP… 국가를 가르친다 – 조선닷컴". Chosun.com. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
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- "South Korea’s economy - What do you do when you reach the top?". The Economist. 12 November 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
- "Samsung chairman hints at possible resignation : National : Home" (in (Korean)). English.hani.co.kr. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/business/AP-SKorea-Samsung-Trial.html?hp
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- Samsung promotes chairman's son to president, Kelly olsen, AP, 3 Dec 2010
- "Samsung Feud: The Court Case Begins". The Wall Street Journal. May 30, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
- Forbes.com: Forbes World's Richest People
- "Lee Kun-hee's Big Stick", The Korea Times, January 8, 2006.
- "Samsung chairman's office raided as part of inquiry", International Herald Tribune, January 14, 2008.
- "Samsung chairman hints at possible resignation", hanqyere newspaper, April 11, 2008.
- "www.leekunhee.com" Official personal bio
- "South Korea Plans to Pardon Former Samsung Chairman"
|Chairman of the Board of the Samsung Group
December 1987 – April 2008
|Chairman of the Board of the Samsung Group
March 2010 – present