Samsung’s Incarcerated Chief Is Becoming Even Richer

October 13, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

Samsung Group Vice Chairman and heir apparent Jay Y. Lee became even richer over the last eight months that he spent incarcerated, with the South Korean chaebol posting three consecutive record-breaking quarters largely thanks to its chipmaking division backed by continued strong performance in all smartphone segments. Mr. Lee — whose net worth was previously put at approximately $7.7 billion by some industry trackers — saw his stake in Samsung Electronics surpass $2 billion during his spell in detention, in addition to receiving around $10.5 million in dividends from Samsung Group’s flagship division over the same period. Those figures seem even higher in light of the fact that Mr. Lee’s stake in the Seoul-based business is smaller than one percent.

The grandson of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul also owns stakes in other subsidiaries of the largest business conglomerate in the Far Eastern country and while their exact values remain unknown, they aren’t anywhere close to the Samsung Electronics one. While Mr. Lee’s absence has yet to be felt by Samsung in terms of commercial performance, the leadership vacuum at the company is seemingly set to become even larger as Samsung Electronics CEO and Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun announced he’ll be resigning his executive roles at the firm by March 2018 once his board term comes to an end. The timing of Mr. Kwon’s decision came as a surprise to many, raising more questions regarding how Samsung will be able to cope in the future. Its departing C-suite executive reiterated that the firm’s present performance is a result of its previous investments, with his Friday statement noting that Samsung has yet to identify new industry segments which could help it maintain momentum in the medium and long terms, consequently building on its current performance which is confidently leading it to the most lucrative year in the history of the 79-year-old conglomerate.

Mr. Lee is expected to remain in jail until at least February as his case is yet to go through all of its appellate phases. The man who has essentially been leading the company after his father Lee Kun-hee was left in a comatose state in 2014 was sentenced to five years in prison for supposedly bribing the former South Korean president in order to facilitate a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates which allowed him to gain more corporate power within the chaebol and ensure his status of a successor to the tech empire.