Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee, who transformed the South Korean firm into a global tech titan, died at the age of 78 on Sunday, the company said.
Under Lee’s leadership, Samsung rose to become the world’s largest producer of smartphones and memory chips, and the firm’s overall turnover today is equivalent to a fifth of South Korea’s GDP.
Samsung’s meteoric rise helped make Lee South Korea’s richest and most powerful industrialist.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Kun-hee Lee, Chairman of Samsung Electronics,” the company said in a statement.
“Chairman Lee passed away on October 25 with his family, including Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, by his side.
“Chairman Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business,” the firm said, adding: “His legacy will be everlasting.”
Samsung is by far the biggest of the family-controlled conglomerates, or chaebols, that dominate business in South Korea.
They drove the nation’s transformation from a war-ravaged ruin to the world’s 12th-largest economy, but nowadays are accused of murky political ties and stifling competition — with Lee himself twice convicted of criminal offences, in one case bribing a president.