Seoul: Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun Hee, who helped generate almost a quarter of South Korea's GDP by propelling a copycat manufacturer into Asia's biggest technology company, is in stable condition after surgery following a heart attack.
Lee, 72, was operated on early Sunday at Samsung Medical Centre after being resuscitated the previous night at Soonchunhyang University Hospital following an acute myocardial infarction, Rhee So Eui, a spokeswoman for Samsung Group, said in an e-mailed statement. Lee, who was treated for lung cancer in 2000, underwent a procedure to help him get more oxygen after experiencing difficulty breathing the night of May 10.
After taking over the Suwon, South Korea-based business in 1987, Lee built it into the world's largest maker of smartphones, televisions and memory chips, becoming South Korea's richest man in the process. In 2012, he appointed his son, Lee Jae Yong, vice chairman, and his daughter, Lee Boo Jin, president of affiliate Hotel Shilla Co. as Samsung Group grew into South Korea's biggest conglomerate.
"Chairman Lee has made a significant mark not just for Samsung but also for the Korean economy as a whole, by helping it globalise when the country embraced the new high-technology era," said Chung Sun Sup, chief executive officer of corporate researcher Chaebul.com. "That fuels even more concern over Samsung's future and its fate amid his absence," he added further.
Samsung Electronics shares have surged more than 130-fold since Lee replaced the group's founder, his father Lee Byung Chull, as chairman. They rose by four per cent to 1,388,000 won as of 2:02pm in Seoul trading.
The patriarch chose his third son in 1971 ahead of two older brothers because they weren't interested in the business, according to "The Lee Kun Hee Story," a biography published in 2010. Lee Kun Hee was ranked among the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine in 2005.
Lee Kun Hee naming his son vice chairman "was an example of succession planning," Heo Pil Seok, Chief Executive Officer at Midas International Asset Management in Seoul, said by phone on Sunday.
Lee also leads Samsung Group, which has more than 70 affiliated companies globally, including the electronics business. He has an estimated net worth of $11 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.