Samsung Electronics Co chairman Lee Kun-hee will retain control of Asia’s biggest consumer electronics maker after a court rejected relatives’ bids for a 4.1 trillion won (US$3.7 billion) stake in the group.
The brother, sister and three other family members of billionaire Lee, 71, failed to prove they should be given the stakes in Samsung Electronics and Samsung Life Insurance Co, the Seoul District Court ruled yesterday.
The family feud comes as Samsung Electronics moves ahead of Apple Inc, Sony Corp and Panasonic Corp as the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, TVs and computer-memory chips.
The South Korea-based company boosted fourth-quarter profits by 76 percent after shipping one of every three smartphones and selling one of every four flat-panel TVs.
Lee’s brother Lee Maeng-hee and sister Lee Sook-hee, who do not have any role in the group, sued in February last year, claiming they were entitled to additional stakes. Three other relatives also sued.
The five plaintiffs will decide if they will appeal after reviewing the ruling, their lawyer Cha Dong-eon said.
Yun Jae-yun, a lawyer for Lee Kun-hee, said the judge’s decision was reasonable. Lee Kun-hee had said before the ruling he would not give a “dime” to his relatives because inheritance matters had been settled by his father, and he would appeal a loss, according to media reports.
Handing over the shares to his siblings would have meant the chairman would no longer be the largest investor in Samsung Life.
In South Korea’s complex world of cross-holding of shares in companies, that could have triggered a dispute over control of Samsung Electronics, Chae Yi-bai, a researcher at the Center for Good Corporate Governance, a Seoul-based private institute monitoring South Korean conglomerates, said before the ruling.
Lee Kun-hee holds 41.5 million shares, or about 21 percent, of Samsung Life, making him the largest shareholder, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
His elder brother wanted at least 9.65 million shares and his sister wanted 2.6 million shares.
The public holdings of Lee Kun-hee, South Korea’s richest man, are valued at US$11.2 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The family conglomerate, Samsung Group, controls more than 80 companies making armored vehicles and artillery for South Korea’s military, oil tankers, amusement parks and apartment complexes.
Samsung Group generates about 20 percent of South Korea’s GDP.