Lee Kun-hee, who built Samsung into a global giant of smartphones, televisions and computer chips died on Sunday in Seoul aged 78. Samsung did not specify the cause of death. Lee Kun-hee was chairman of Samsung Group from 1987 to 1998, chairman and chief executive of Samsung Electronics from 1998 to 2008, then Samsung Electronics chairman from 2010 until his death. He was South Korea’s richest man. By the early 1990s, Samsung had surpassed Japanese and American rivals. Samsung Electronics today is a cornerstone of South Korea’s economy and one of the world’s top corporate spenders on research and development.
In 1996, Mr. Lee was convicted of bribing the country’s president, then pardoned. After more than one decade he was found guilty of tax evasion but given another reprieve. Lee Kun-hee was born in Daegu, in Japanese-occupied Korea.He graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo in 1965. He then studied in a master’s program at George Washington University but did not receive a degree. He started his career at Tongyang Broadcasting Company, a Samsung affiliate at the time, in 1966. Mr. Lee was rarely seen in public. He was a devoted collector of sports cars and fine art. After a heart attack in 2014, his son and vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, Lee Jae-yong, became the company’s public face.