Samsung heir Jay Y Lee appointed as executive chairman of tech giant

The Samsung heir has taken the top position of South Korea's largest technology conglomerate which remained vacant for two years since his father's death in 2020.
Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributing Writer

Samsung heir-apparent Lee Jae-yong, center, has been appointed executive chairman, the top position within Samsung. Image: Samsung

Samsung said on Thursday that its board has approved the appointment of Jay Y Lee, the de facto leader of the Samsung business group, as executive chairman of Samsung Electronics.

According to Samsung, the board cited the current uncertain global business environment and the "pressing need for stronger accountability and business stability" in approving the recommendation by board chairman Kim Han-jo to name Lee as executive chairman.

Samsung also said that there will be no ceremony or inaugural speech to mark the appointment. This is a denial of some media reports that claimed there was going to be an inaugural ceremony on November 1, which Samsung considers as the founding date of Samsung Electronics, its flagship company.

The 54-year-old Lee's appointment as executive chairman comes ten years after he was named vice chairman of Samsung Electronics back in December 2012, which signaled that he would inherit the top spot from his father Lee Kun-hee. The elder Lee's official position had also been Samsung Electronics chairman.

The younger Lee has been the effective leader of Samsung since 2014 when his father suffered a heart attack and became incapacitated. The elder Lee remained in the hospital until 2020 when he passed away at the age of 78.

Jay Y Lee, who also goes by Lee Jae-yong, is the grandson of Samsung's founder Lee Byung-chull, the father of Lee Kun-hee. Second-generation chairman Lee Kun-hee is largely credited for turning Samsung from a small contract manufacturer of electronics to the global technology powerhouse that it is today. 

Earlier this week on Tuesday, Samsung held a memorial for the passing of chairman Lee Kun-hee, where the younger Lee hosted hundreds of current and previous Samsung executives.

At the memorial, executive chairman Lee told the audience that he was "filled with a deep sense of responsibility to preserve his legacy, and to build on it for our future," according to Samsung.

Lee also reportedly said that he met with young team members and heard their desire for the work culture at Samsung to evolve.

"I agree. We need to be more flexible so that we can unlock the full extent of their potential. We need to welcome new ideas to ignite passion and creativity. Yes, we will be relentless, but also adaptable. We will be respectful of our values and principles, while fully embracing diversity with an open mind," the executive chairman reportedly said.

Meanwhile, Lee is still on trial for alleged market manipulation crime involving the merger of two Samsung affiliates. In August, he received a presidential pardon for his bribery conviction that saw him jailed and subsequently freed on probation last year.

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