Skip to main content

Samsung chairman's heart attack raises questions about son's succession

Samsung chairman's heart attack raises questions about son's succession

Share this story

Samsung Electronics' chairman is in stable condition at a Seoul hospital after suffering a heart attack over the weekend. Lee Kun-hee, who led the company from the late ’80s through its present-day dominance, is now breathing without assistance after undergoing surgery to widen his arteries, Samsung representatives told AFP. "There has been no disruption in the group's day-to-day operation," said an official. Samsung confirmed to The Verge that Lee was admitted to hospital early Sunday morning and is making a recovery after treatment for acute myocardial infarction, the medical term for a heart attack.

Lee's son has long been expected to take the reins

The episode raises questions over how long the 72-year-old Lee, often a source of controversy, will remain at the top of the company he turned into a global power. His only son Lee Jae-yong (also known as Jay Y. Lee) has long been expected to take the reins at some point; the younger Lee is presently vice chairman of Samsung Electronics after serving as COO until 2012. Fluent in English and Japanese, he is considered one of the international faces of Samsung. South Korea's family-run chaebols often pass power down from generation to generation, and Lee Kun-hee himself assumed his following the death of his father, Lee Byung-chull.

Lee Kun-hee is not thought to play a major day-to-day role in the running of the company, with three CEOs serving below him — as The Wall Street Journal notes, however, he is still believed to have a final say in major strategic decisions. With his son not presently in an operational position at Samsung, it's unclear how the balance of power would play out were the chairman to step down.

Update May 12th, 2:54AM: Article updated with confirmation and comment from Samsung.