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How Jay Lee became Samsung executive chairman

— Samsung names Jay Lee (Lee Jae-yong) executive chairman of the company.
— Lee’s appointment is expected to steer the company in more profitable direction.

Short version: Jay Lee is the successor of Samsung, being the grandson of its founder Lee Byung-chul and son of former chairman, Lee Kun-hee.

However, the story of Jay Lee, 54, (whose real name is Lee Jae-yong) is slightly more complicated. Since 2017, Lee has been fighting corruption and bribery accusations here and there. In 2018, he went to prison on a five-year sentence, but only served one year. He was retried in 2019 and in 2020, he issued a public apology.

Then, in January 2021, the court ordered him back to jail on a two years and six months sentence. However, months later, Lee received a presidential pardon, which became official on August 15, 2022.

At the time, his pardon has been seen as a gesture by the government to turn around the fate of the company, and by extension, that of the country. It also allowed him to be officially named the executive chairman of the multinational electronic powerhouse.

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Since 2014, after his father suffered a terrible heart attack that left him incapacitated, the company had been in the hands of the board. Although, he acted as de-facto head since then. As part of the announcement, the board believes that with a Lee in the driving seat, the company will have stronger accountability and business stability.

Jay Lee claims the throne of Samsung at a time when the tech industry is taking its worst hit in years. Samsung itself reported disappointing earning results which saw its profits fall by 23 percent compared to the previous quarter.

Of course, Lee is no miracle worker and his prison stint is not so unique, as his, the former head too had been convicted of corruption and tax evasion in 1996 and 2008. Yet, the general consensus is that decisions will be made faster and the company will be able to make much-needed acquisitions, mergers, and investments.

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

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Onwuasoanya Obinna

A reader of books and stringer of words. Passionate about Science and Tech. When not writing or reading he is surfing the web and Tweeting.