South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee died at the age of 78 on Sunday, AFP reported, quoting a company statement.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Kun-hee Lee, Chairman of Samsung Electronics,” the company said in a statement. “Chairman Lee passed away on October 25 with his family, including Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, by his side.”
“Chairman Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business. His legacy will be everlasting.”— Samsung statement
The company did not state the exact cause of his death. However, Lee had been bedridden since a heart attack in 2014.
Lee was the third son of Lee Byung-chul, who founded Samsung Group in 1938. He joined the family firm in 1968 and took over as the chairman in 1987 after his father’s death. Under his leadership, Samsung rose to become the world’s largest producer of smartphones and memory chips, and the firm’s overall turnover currently is equivalent to a fifth of South Korea’s gross domestic product, according to AFP.
The Samsung group burned its entire mobile phone stock, consisting of 150,000 handsets in 1993 after Lee famously told his employees: “Let’s change everything except our wives and kids.”
According to Forbes, Lee was the richest person in South Korea with a net worth of nearly $21 billion.
His son, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, has been at the helm of the company after his father’s heart attack. He was jailed for five years in 2017 after being found guilty of bribery and other offences linked to former president Park Geun-hye, before being cleared of the most serious charges on appeal and released a year later.