​Samsung to replace all CEOs in long-awaited shake-up

Samsung Electronics has overhauled its top leadership line-up after three years of minimal changes, reflecting the sense of urgency surrounding the conglomerate.
Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributing Writer

Samsung Electronics has named new heads of its three key divisions amid record profits to accelerate to "its next phase of growth," the company said.

The change follows the announcement from Kwon Oh-hyun, vice chairman and CEO of Device Solutions (DS) business, of his plan to retire by March next year.

The retirement of Kwon, the most senior of the three CEOs and confidante of heir apparent Lee Jae-yong, signaled that Samsung was likely to commence its biggest leadership shake-up in three years while the older generation leaders of over 60 retire.

Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee was hospitalized in 2014 following an heart attack. His son, Jae-yong Lee, also known as JY Lee, has been the de facto boss since then but he was jailed earlier this year due to a corruption scandal.

JY's appeals trial is expected to end early next year, and he could be freed if found not guilty or he gets a reduced suspended sentence.

Senior Lee's effective retirement and his son's legal and political troubles have effectively delayed reshuffles for three years. There were wide concerns within the conglomerate, as well as calls for a shake-up to pump fresh blood into the organization.

Co-CEO Boo-keun Yoon, or BK Yoon, will step down as head of the Consumer Electronics (CE) business, as will co-CEO Jong-kyun Shin, who heads the IT & Mobile (IM) business. Like Kwon, they will step down as CEOs in March and leave the board, but will no longer head the divisions, effective immediately.

Kwon was a pioneering figure in semiconductors, Samsung's current key driver for growth, and is widely respected as a legend within the semiconductor business. Yoon was instrumental in Samsung's defeat of Sony in TVs 10 years ago and is known for his bulldozer-like management style. Shin, known for his attention to detail, led Samsung Mobile to launch the Galaxy S to S6 series.

Ki-nam Kim will replace Kwon as head of DS. DJ Koh, who already heads the mobile division -- a subdivision under IT & Mobile business -- will replace Shin. Hyun-suk Kim, or HS Kim, who headed Samsung's TV division, will become the CE head.

The three new heads will lead their divisions effective immediately. The new bosses will be appointed to the board in March, and, most likely announced later as CEOs.

Ki-nam Kim is a long-time Samsung veteran and has a proven track record of profitability in the all-important semiconductor business. He is known for his meticulousness and fairness and has had full faith from the Lee family.

DJ Koh, an unknown in public before his debut as mobile head last year, has the faith of both his subordinates and his leadership as a solid, empathetic leader.

HS Kim was behind the firm's move to QLED TVs and played a key role under his former boss Yoon during Samsung's 11 years as the top vendor of TVs.

All three are within their late 50s -- Kim is 59 and the most senior while Koh and Kim are 56 -- and are considered proven experts in their respective fields.

CFO Sang-hoon Lee will also step down but will succeed Kwon as chairman of the board. The move in March will be the first time that Samsung has separated CEO roles from the chairman of the board. Lee, a career finance man, is also a key lieutenant to the ruling, but unrelated, Lee family, and is know for his global business acumen.

The younger Lee reportedly wants Samsung to have a more Western-style management structure, where CEO and boards are separated.

Now, Samsung Electronics will likely commence its executive level reshuffle soon while other affiliated companies commence their own CEO or president-level shake up.


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