Samsung feud engulfs memorial service for founder

Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:09am EST
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By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - A feud at South Korea's giant Samsung Group over the family fortune has spilled from the courts into an ancestral rite to commemorate the group's deceased founder, a traditional Korean ceremony where family attendance is mandatory.

Descendants of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chull, including Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee, are holding separate memorial services for the first time in 25 years, South Korea's CJ Group said on Wednesday.

The two branches of the Lee family, South Korea's richest business dynasty, are engaged in a bitter legal battle over billions of dollars worth of shares in Samsung group companies and traded barbs.

Lee Kun-hee was worth an estimated $8.3 billion, according to Forbes Magazine, as of March 2012.

Kun-hee's brother, Lee Maeng-hee has dubbed his sibling "greedy" and "childish", while Lee Kun-hee has shot back saying that his accuser was "kicked" out of the family and that he had not observed the family rites.

CJ Group said in a statement that the Samsung Hoam Foundation, which oversees the yearly event, informed CJ Chairman Lee Jay-hyun's secretary that he and his immediate family "will not be able to use the front door" to the burial site when going to pay their respects.

"Samsung's notification to ‘come and go by the back door' is tantamount to blocking the normal ancestral rites of other siblings and their descendants," CJ Group said in a statement.

CJ Group Chairman Lee Jay-hyun is the son of Maeng-hee who is suing over the ownership of shares in Samsung Electronics, which makes the world's best selling smartphone, and Samsung Life, an insurance company at the heart of the sprawling Samsung Group business empire.   Continued...

A man walks with an umbrella at the compound of the headquarters of Samsung Electronics in Seoul July 6, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won