Lee Jae-yong, who is currently the COO and president of Samsung Electronics, has just been promoted to vice-chairman. Lee Jae-yong is the son of chairman Lee Kun-hee, and is the most likely candidate to succeed his father to the Samsung throne.
Lee Jae-yong, also known as Jay Lee outside of South Korea, is 44 years old, fluent in English and Japanese, and has been said to have played an important role in developing the Samsung Galaxy smartphone line-up that we all know and love today.
Samsung was led by the family since its inception in 1938 by Lee Jae-yong’s grandfather, Lee Byung-chull, in 1938. If Lee Jae-yong does become chairman, he would be the third generation of Lee to run the kingdom.
Lee Jae-yong’s promotion hasn’t been all too positive. There has been backlash by citizens who are concerned by the massive power held by the country’s family-run chaebols (business conglomerates).
An analyst at Daiwa Securities, Lee Jae-hyuk, also says there are questions surrounding Lee Jae-yong’s succession,
“He has never been responsible for anything and has yet to show any visible achievements because it has been his father who has done everything so far. It seems too early for him to run the company and he needs more time to prove his ability.”
Critics have also highlighted the failure of an ecommerce business that Lee Jae-yong had ran earlier in his career.
Despite all of the negativity, Samsung is positive that Lee Jae-yong will do a great job. Samsung stated,
“As Vice-chairman, Mr. Lee will build on his existing responsibilities and take a broader role in managing Samsung Electronics’ businesses. Mr. Lee will continue to play a critical role in transforming Samsung’s business model — the set business into one based on a platform and the component business into a total solution provider.”
James Song, an analyst at Daewoo Securities Co. in Seoul, is also optimistic for Lee Jae-yong’s promotion. He says,
“The promotion strengthens Lee’s powers in dealing with Apple, both in the legal fight and in operations. Lee will continue to make efforts to solidify the company’s position in areas where it’s already performing well, rather than taking bold actions on new growth business.”
Lee Jae-yong has big shoes to fill if he succeeds his father as chairman. Under his father, Lee Kun-hee,’s rule since 1987, Samsung has gone from being a fish exportation company to becoming Asia’s biggest consumer electronics company. He helped Samsung’s stock increase more than 100-fold in his 25 years as chairman.
Samsung Electronics is now the flagship company in South Korea’s largest industrial group, a group that generates about 20% of the nation’s gross domestic product.