Grandson of Samsung’s founder takes control of empire as earnings fall

Samsung Electronics has appointed Lee Jae-yong — who is known in the West as Jay Y. Lee — as its executive chairman, giving the grandson of the company’s founder formal control, the South Korean tech giant announced today. The announcement came on the same day that Samsung announced a series of disappointing earnings resultsas profits fell 23 percent compared to the previous quarter.

According to Samsung’s official announcement justifying the appointment, “the Board cited the current uncertain global business environment and the pressing need for stronger accountability and business stability in approving the recommendation.” Samsung is currently battling a slump in demand for several of its key businesses including memory chips, mobile phones, and TVs. It doesn’t expect demand to pick back up until the second half of next year.

Lee’s ascension is unlikely to change much for the company in the short term, Bloomberg notes, given he’s long served as Samsung’s de-facto leader. But formally taking control means Lee can take bigger strategic decisions to steer the company through a turbulent economic period, including pushing through acquisitions, mergers, and funneling investment into emerging technologies.

“Without a doubt, we are at a pivotal moment”

54-year old Lee succeeds his father, Lee Kun-hee, as head of South Korea’s largest company following his death in October 2020. Lee Kun-hee had been incapacitated for years after suffering a heart attack in 2014. The younger Lee had been embroided in a corruption and bribery scandal since 2017, and been sent to prison twice. Lee was given a presidential pardon in August this year, paving the way for him to take formal control of the electronics giant. The pardon was reminiscent of the two given to Lee’s father, who was convicted of corruption and tax evasion in 1996 and 2008.

“Without a doubt, we are at a pivotal moment,” Lee said in a statement reported by Bloomberg. “Now is the time to plan our next move. Now is the time to act, to be bold and unwavering in our focus.”