Samsung Electronics has announced the death of its chairman, Lee Kun-hee. The company says he died on October 25th with family including his son, vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong, at his side. He was 78.
A cause of death was not given, but Lee had been incapacitated for many years after suffering a heart attack in 2014, causing him to withdraw from public life. Lee Jae-yong, also known as Jay Y. Lee, had been widely assumed to take over upon his father’s passing and has been viewed as the de facto leader in recent years.
Lee also found himself in legal trouble. He was found guilty of bribing President Roh Tae-woo through a slush fund in 1995, and of tax evasion and embezzlement in 2008, but was formally forgiven for each conviction. The second pardon came in 2009 and was made “so that Lee could take back his place at the International Olympic Committee and form a better situation for the 2018 Olympics to take place in Pyongchang,” South Korea’s justice minister announced at the time.
Samsung is by far the largest of the South Korean conglomerates (“chaebols”) that dominate the world’s 12th largest economy.
The company’s overall turnover is equivalent to one-fifth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, making it crucial to the economic health of South Korea.