Reports indicate that Lee Kun-Hee died age 78 on Sunday with his family members by his side. He had been hospitalized since May 2014 after suffering a heart attack- His son Lee Jae-yong has run South Korea’s biggest company ever since.
‘All of us at Samsung will cherish his memory and are grateful for the journey we shared with him,’ the Samsung statement said. ‘Our deepest sympathies are with his family, relatives and those nearest. His legacy will be everlasting.’
Lee Kun-Hee inherited control from his father and during his nearly 30 years of leadership, Samsung Electronics Co. became a global brand and the world´s largest maker of smartphones, televisions and memory chips.
Samsung sells Galaxy phones while also making the screens and microchips that power its rivals, Apple´s iPhones and Google Android phones.
Samsung helped make the nation´s economy, Asia´s fourth-largest. Its businesses encompass shipbuilding, life insurance, construction, hotels, amusement park operation and more. Samsung Electronics alone accounts for 20% of the market capital on South Korea´s main stock market.
Lee leaves behind immense wealth, with Forbes estimating his fortune at $16 billion as of January 2017.
His death comes during a complex time for Samsung.
When he was hospitalized, Samsung´s once-lucrative mobile business faced threats from upstart makers in China and other emerging markets. Pressure was high to innovate its traditionally strong hardware business, to reform a stifling hierarchical culture and to improve its corporate governance and transparency.
Samsung was ensnared in the 2016-17 corruption scandal that led to then-President Park Geun-hye´s impeachment and imprisonment. Its executives, including the younger Lee, were investigated by prosecutors who believed Samsung executives bribed Park to secure the government´s backing for a smooth leadership transition from father to son.