Go to contents

Samsung Group Promotes Lee Jae-yong to Exec. VP

Posted December. 16, 2009 09:01,   


Lee Jae-yong, the son of former Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee, was promoted to executive vice president of Korea’s top conglomerate yesterday.

Though he climbed up the corporate ladder more than one rank, the group denied that Lee Jae-yong was given an exceptional promotion, saying, “It takes at least two years to be promoted from senior vice president to executive vice president. But he was promoted to executive vice president in three years, meaning he was not promoted in the shortest span of time.”

Lee’s status in Samsung has grown considerably, however, since his promotion was announced with the personnel reshuffle of Samsung affiliate presidents, not executives.

He also took over as the group’s new position of chief operating officer. A high-ranking group source said, “Though Samsung has introduced the COO position, most Western business groups have had it for a long time. A COO is in charge of business management such as coordinating business units.”

“(Lee Jae-yong) will proactively respond to the needs of overseas customers and external parties through his expertise and network gathered from his experience as chief customer officer.”

In short, Lee Jae-yong has earned the “official” right to take part in the group’s management.

The group said, “We have no special statement to make about the succession plan.” Observers, however, say the promotion will accelerate the succession process of making Lee Jae-yong chairman.

Notably, Choi Gee-sung was named the sole CEO of Samsung Electronics. Lee Yoon-woo, who had led the nation’s largest electronics maker along with Choi, will effectively step down to chair the board of directors.

Through the move, the company has apparently opted to respond faster to changes in the external environment by simplifying the decision-making structure.

Other presidents of Samsung Electronics and CEOs of Samsung affiliates were also replaced by younger executives in their 50s. Many CEOs who led group affiliates stepped down.

Samsung C&T Corp. CEO Lee Sang-dae, 62, was reassigned to lead Samsung Engineering. Samsung Heavy Industries CEO Kim Jing-wan, 63, was named sole head of the company. Samsung Engineering President Jeong Yeon-ju, 59, became Samsung C&T Corp. CEO, president and construction division chief.

Samsung Heavy Industries will be led by Roh In-sik.

In Samsung Electronics, the head of new business management, Lim Hyeong-gyu, stepped down to became an adviser. Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology President Lee Sang-wan became chairman of the Samsung Social Contribution Committee.

On the other hand, executives in their 50s were promoted to executive positions. For example, Kim Ki-nam, 52, was promoted to president of the Samsung institute; Shin Jong-gyun, 53, to the head of the wireless business unit; and Jo Su-in, 52, to the head of the memory chip business. The chief of the business support team, Lee Sang-hun, is 54.

The company said, “In general, young executives were promoted to presidents to accelerate the pace of management.”

The conglomerate, however, emphasized experience in certain sectors. For example, Samsung Card President Choi Do-seok, 60, was promoted to CEO and vice chairman. Samsung SDI President Kim Sun-taek was promoted to vice chairman of the new business management team of Samsung Electronics.

Choi and Kim have a deep understanding of the group’s managerial philosophy since both have worked for the chairman’s secretariat and strategy and planning department.

“Choi gets credit for building the responsibility management system and leading innovation, and Kim for dramatically turning Samsung SDI from a display company to a green energy company driven by secondary batteries,” the group said. “The two will strive to secure new growth engines.”

Kim will be replaced as Samsung SDI president by Choi Chi-hun, former head of GE Energy’s Asia Pacific division who was hired by Samsung Electronics in 2007.

swon@donga.com nex@donga.com