Samsung after Lee Kun-hee

IN THE SPRING of 1995 word got to Lee Kun-hee that a batch of Samsung’s brand-new mobile phones, which it had doled out as new-year gifts, did not work. Incensed, the group’s chairman ordered employees at the factory that had made the offending devices to pile up tens of thousands of them in a courtyard. A cool $45m-worth of equipment then went up in flames.

The episode is emblematic of the way Mr Lee (pictured), who died on October 25th aged 78, turned a South Korean maker of knock-off electronics into a technology powerhouse. He was obsessed with quality and demanded total devotion from executives. Every decade or so he made bold bets. His last one, on smartphones and semiconductors, paid off handsomely. Samsung Electronics, the group’s crown jewel, has a market value of $311bn, more than JPMorgan Chase, America’s biggest bank.

The patriarch’s death was not unexpected—he had been incapacitated since a heart attack in 2014. It will not prompt leadership changes. But it highlights two challenges facing South Korea’s biggest chaebol (conglomerate). The group must find growth beyond maturing smartphone markets. And it has to grapple with Mr Lee’s other legacy: an over-cosy relationship with politics that has embroiled his company, as well as his son and successor, Lee Jae-yong, in corruption cases...

via Business Feeds

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