Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee dead at 78

SEOUL, South Korea — Samsung Electronics Co. said in a statement that its chairman, Lee Kun-hee, died Sunday. He was 78.

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No cause of death was given by the company, but Lee had been incapacitated since suffering a heart attack in 2014, according to The New York Times.

"All of us at Samsung will cherish his memory and are grateful for the journey we shared with him,” the company said in a statement.

Lee was born in Daegu, in Japanese-occupied Korea, on Jan. 9, 1942, He built Samsung into a global giant of smartphones, televisions and computer chips, the newspaper reported. He was convicted twice -- but pardoned twice -- for white-collar crimes.

Lee took over the company in 1987 after the death of his father and Samsung’s founder, Lee Byung-chul. He steered Samsung past American and Japanese rivals to become the market leader in memory chips, according to the Times. The company also dominated flat-panel screens and established itself in the mobile market as cellphones became more of a computer device during the 2000s.

Samsung sells Galaxy phones and makes the screens and microchips that power Apple’s iPhones and Google Android phones, according to The Associated Press.

Forbes estimated in January 2017 that Lee’s fortune was worth $16 billion, according to the AP.

In 1996, Lee was convicted of bribing South Korea’s president, but was then pardoned, the Times reported. Years later, Lee was convicted of tax evasion but was pardoned again so he could help South Korea lobby to bring the Winter Olympics to the mountain town of Pyeongchang in 2018.


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