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Selected Case

published: 27 Nov 2017

  • Topic: Family Business
  • Industry: Radio, Television, Consumer Electronics
  • Region: Asia

Abstract:
This three-part case covers the history of Samsung from its origins as a small trucking company to one of Korea’s largest conglomerates. Part A, “Drivers of Success, Family Assets and Business Strategy”, charts the growth of Korea’s the export-led economy after the end of Japanese occupation in 1945, driven by a handful of family-owned ‘chaebols’. Founder Lee Byung-chull’s trucking business, set up in 1938, diversified in the aftermath of the Korean War, as he forged a strong political network that enabled him to embed his family’s influence and assets in the business strategy. Part B, “Heart Attack Puts Succession Planning at Risk”, describes how the ill health of the second-generation leader Lee Kun-hee deprived the firm of a clear succession plan. As the de facto leader of Samsung, his son had to build up his power base to assume the role in the context of a complex ownership structure. Part C, “Court calls time out on Lee Jae-yong”, examines how the de facto heir was convicted of bribery and given a five-year prison sentence, prompting speculation that he would run the Samsung empire from his cell.

Pedagogical Objectives:
The three parts can be used together or as stand-alone cases in the classroom. Part A (16 pages) explores the success of a family business with modest beginnings, transformed within a generation into a major conglomerate; the role of the second-generation leader who transformed the export-driven firm into a global company with factories and R&D facilities all over the world; and the role of family relationships that enabled the Lee clan to retain ownership over the sprawling enterprise. Instructors can use the shorter Part B (11 pages) to look at the Lee family and the choices available to the de facto heir after his father’s heart attack; the tax avoidance measures he must have taken (in view of Korea’s hefty 50% tax on estates of this size); and the much publicized merger of two Samsung affiliates that was clearly not in the interests of minority investors. Part C (10 pages) enables discussion of the legal ramifications of illegal behavior and the possibility of reforming aspects of the family-run chaebols, which critics blame for the state of the economy today.

Keywords:
Samsung, Lee Jae-Yong, Korea, Lee Byung-Chull, Chaebol, Lee Kun-Hee, Lee Boo-Jin, Lee Seo-Hyun, Paul Elliott Singer, Elliot Management, Park Geun-Hye, Park Chung-Hee, Samsung Electronics, Conglomerates

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