Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee dies

Lee Kun-hee dies aged 78: Samsung's chairman passes away surrounded by family

South Korea's richest and most powerful industrialist, Lee Kun-hee, turned Samsung Electronics into one of the world's biggest tech companies but lived a reclusive existence.

Samsung Electronics said in a statement that Lee died at a hospital in Seoul on Sunday morning with his family by his side, including his son, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong.

The Samsung Electronics chairman who was ailing after a heart attack had been hospitalized since May 2014.

"Chairman Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business", Samsung said.

During im lifetime, Samsung Electronics also became one of di biggest technology companies for di world.

At a time when Samsung was producing cheap, low-quality products for mass export, he decided it was time to "change everything except your wife and children".

Lee had suffered a heart attack and had been hospitalized and bedridden since 2014, when Lee Jae-yong began to take the helm and become the de facto leader of the multinational gaint.

With Lee's death, his wife Hong Ra-hee, his only son Jae-yong and two daughters Boo-jin and Seo-hyun would be faced with a hefty tax to inherit Lee's stakes in Samsung affiliates worth over 18 trillion won (16 billion USA dollars) in terms of the Friday closing price, according to Yonhap.

As a teenager, Lee Kun-Hee liked movies and cars and kept to himself.

Samsung became the biggest seller of all mobile phones in 2012, unseating Nokia Oyj, which had been the industry leader for more than a decade. Lee was convicted and pardoned twice for white-collar crimes in South Korea, first in 1996 and again in 2008. By introducing the Galaxy Note in 2011, Samsung created a new product niche known as the phablet, a smartphone-tablet hybrid.

The statement does not provide information on the cause of his death.

The late chairman held a 4.18 percent stake in the flagship Samsung Electronics Co., along with another 0.08 percent share in the firm's preferred stocks. He was fined 110 billion won ($97.1 million) and received a suspended three-year jail sentence. Samsung didn't start selling electronics until 31 years later, in 1969. The area for the memorial was limited to 50 people, a sign said.

Lee inherited control from his father and during his almost 30 years of leadership, Samsung Electronics Co became a global brand and the world's largest maker of smartphones, televisions and memory chips.

He was released from prison after a year, in 2018. The bribery charges were related to Lee offering 8.6 billion won ($7 million/€6.4 billion) in bribes, including horses, to the daughter of a confidante of former President Park Geun-hye, to win government support for the controversial merger of two Samsung affiliates as a key step toward his succession.

In 1967, Lee Kun-hee married Hong Ra-hee.