Lee Kun-Hee was born on 9 January 1942, in Uiryeong County, South Korea, and is well known as the chairman of Samsung, the most prominent businessman in South Korea. Forbes magazine ranks Lee as the richest person in South Korea, and the 110th richest in the world in 2015.
So just how rich is Lee Kun-Hee? Forbes estimates that Lee’s net worth is over $11 billion, a good deal of his wealth having been accumulated through his involvement with the giant tech company Samsung.
Lee Kun-Hee Net Worth $11 Billion
Lee Kun-Hee graduated with a degree in economics from Waseda University, Tokyo, and an MBA from George Washington University, Washington DC. Lee Kun-Hee is the third son of Lee Byung-Chul, who founded Samsung in 1938, and he joined the Samsung Group in 1968 and took over the chairmanship on December 1, 1987, just two weeks after the death of his father. Over the last 25 years, Samsung is effectively the story of Lee Kun-Hee, and vice versa. Of course, Lee’s inheritance from his father provided an enormous boost to his net worth.
Lee quickly separated Samsung into four business groups – Samsung Group, Shinsegae Group, CJ Group and Hansol Group, and since the 1990s, Samsung has increasingly globalized its activities, and electronics, particularly mobile phones and semiconductors, have become its most important source of income. Now notable Samsung companies include Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest information technology company and 4th in market value; Samsung Heavy Industries, the world’s 2nd-largest shipbuilder; and Samsung Engineering and Samsung C&T, respectively the world’s 13th and 36th-largest construction companies. Other notable subsidiaries include Samsung Life Insurance, the world’s 14th-largest life insurance company; Samsung Everland, operator of Everland Resort, the oldest theme park in South Korea; and Cheil Worldwide, the world’s 15th-largest advertising agency.
This impressive list of companies lends adequate testimony not only to Lee Kun-Hee’s business acumen, but to the varied sources of his net worth. Under Lee’s guidance, Samsung has been transformed very effectively from a Korean budget name into a major international force in a variety of businesses, and arguably the most prominent Asian brand worldwide, particularly in the consumer market of information technology, especially mobile ‘phones.
Lee Kun-Hee’s personal life is hardly private – court cases have been to do with promoting Samsung through slush funds and corrupt dealings with public officials, for which he was fined and jailed. His family are deeply involved in Samsung too: his son Lee Jae-Yong is vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, and his elder daughter Lee Boo-Jin is president and CEO of Hotel Shilla, a luxury hotel chain, as well as president of Samsung Everland, a theme park and resort operator. (Lee’s younger daughter took her own life in 2005.) His wider family members are also part of the Samsung hierarchy. As Lee’s health deteriorates, there is some concern in the market over the succession to head Samsung – the two aforementioned offspring appear to be in the likely to step into the top management positions.