Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Profile: Lee Kun-hee

South Korean mover and shaker Lee Kun-hee is back as chairman of Samsung after nearly two years out in the cold.

Lee Kun-hee announcing he is to stand down as Samsung Group chairman (22 April 2008)
Mr Lee previously resigned as Samsung's chairman in April 2008

In his previous two decades of experience in the job, he is credited with turning the company into a major force in the global electronics industry.

He only dropped the reins at Samsung in April 2008 after being charged with tax evasion and breach of trust.

He was convicted on the tax charges, but given a presidential pardon at the end of 2009.

This cleared the way for him to return to the International Olympics Committee and help South Korea's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

But his return to the helm at Samsung is bound to prompt further criticism from South Korean campaigners for more corporate accountability.

An enthusiastic sportsman, he cites his hobbies as golf, equestrian sports, table tennis, skiing, watching movies and listening to classical music. He was once rumoured to have rented three ski slopes in the French Alps for his own personal use.

He is also chairman of the Korea Sports Association for the Disabled and honorary president of the Korean Amateur Wrestling Federation.

Commercial dynasty

Lee Kun-hee was born on 9 January 1942 and is the third son of Lee Byung-chull, the founder of the Samsung group, whose products or services touch every aspect of Koreans' lives.

He joined the family firm in 1968 and took over as chairman in 1987 after his father's death.

The latest Forbes rich list puts him as the 100th wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of $7.2bn.

He has a degree in economics from Waseda University in Japan and an MBA from George Washington University in the US.

Samsung has grown into a massive South Korean business conglomerate - or chaebol - of dozens of companies with interests in areas as diverse as shipbuilding, construction, fashion, leisure and finance.

These conglomerates have been the target of corporate governance reforms since the Asian economic crisis of 1997, but still wield a lot of power and influence.

Lee Kun Hee (C) attends the 122nd IOC Session ahead of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics
Mr Lee rejoined the International Olympic Committee in February

Samsung's most famous arm is Samsung Electronics, which is competing with Hewlett-Packard for the status of the world's biggest technology firm by revenue.

Its reinstated chairman is credited with growing the firm to become the world's largest maker of computer memory chips and flat screen televisions and second biggest manufacturer of mobile phones, employing 164,600 people in 61 countries.

In 1993 he ordered radical reforms at the company, declaring that Samsung was "second rate" by global standards and famously telling employees to "change everything except your wife and kids".

His challenge now will be to increase the firm's growth still further through continued innovation.

Samsung said it "needs Mr Lee's leadership to maintain its global position at a time of uncertainty".

One future issue for Samsung is succession.

Lee Jae-yong - Lee Kun-Hee's son - was appointed chief operating officer at Samsung Electronics in December 2009. He is seen by some as the third-generation heir apparent.



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