Electronics Co. has officially appointed Lee Jae-yong as executive chairman, an elevation in title that formalizes the all-encompassing role he has played for years at South Korea’s largest business conglomerate.
The 54-year-old Mr. Lee—who goes by
Jay Y. Lee
in the West—had previously held the title of Samsung Electronics vice chairman. He takes over a position previously held by his father, Lee Kun-hee, who died two years ago and had been incapacitated after a 2014 heart attack.
Since then, Lee Jae-yong, Harvard-educated and trilingual, had served as the de facto head of Samsung, which includes Samsung Electronics Co., the conglomerate’s crown jewel. All major decisions across Samsung’s various affiliates, from theme parks to life insurance to biopharmaceuticals, require his signoff.
Samsung Electronics’ board, in a Thursday statement, said it had recommended giving Mr. Lee the executive chairman title in light of the “current uncertain global business environment and the pressing need for stronger accountability and business stability.”
Mr. Lee, who is the grandson of Samsung’s founder, has faced a variety of legal issues that have complicated his formal ascension to the executive chairmanship.
Mr. Lee has been imprisoned twice in recent years for bribing South Korea’s former president. He was paroled last year from a 30-month sentence tied to the bribery conviction, which came with restrictions such as a five-year employment ban. In August, Mr. Lee received a presidential pardon that wiped clean his criminal record from the 2017 conviction.
The new title doesn’t grant him any significant new powers. It is an unofficial role, sitting outside of the company’s board of directors—a point that corporate-governance experts criticize for failing to ensure legal accountability and transparency.
“Now is the time to plan our next move. Now is the time to act, to be bold and unwavering in our focus,” said Mr. Lee in a meeting with Samsung CEOs earlier this week. The remarks were shared with Samsung employees on the company’s internal website on Thursday.
The announcement came as Samsung Electronics reported a 24% decline in third-quarter net profit due to a slowdown in memory-chip demand.
Write to Jiyoung Sohn at [email protected]
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8