Lee Kun-Hee, force behind Samsung’s rise, dies at 78


Lee 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.

Lee Kun-Hee, the ailing Samsung Electronics chairman who transformed the small television maker into a global giant of consumer electronics, has died. He was 78.

A Samsung statement said Lee died on October 25 with his family members, including his son and de facto company chief Lee Jae-yong, by his side.

Lee Kun-Hee had been hospitalized since May 2014 after suffering a heart attack and the younger Lee has run Samsung, the biggest company in South Korea.

The Samsung statement says “all of us at Samsung will cherish his memory and are grateful for the journey we shared with him.”

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.

It is South Korea’s largest family-controlled business conglomerate and 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.

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