Samsung Electronics chairman wins $4 billion court feud over family fortune

Fri Feb 1, 2013 2:17am EST
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By Ju-min Park and Daum Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Chairman Lee Kun-hee fended off a lawsuit by estranged family members demanding he hand over billions of dollars of shares in Samsung companies as a South Korean court ruled in his favor on Friday.

Lee, 71, and Samsung Everland, a de facto holding company for the country's largest conglomerate, were defending against three lawsuits by Lee's relatives seeking nearly $4 billion in assets in Samsung Life Insurance Co Ltd, which sits at the heart of the web of Samsung group shareholdings, and Samsung Electronics, the group's crown jewel.

The lawsuit was unlikely to have deprived Lee of his control over Samsung Electronics, the world's biggest maker of smartphones, TVs and memory chips.

But a ruling against him would have diluted his holdings and could have forced a reshuffling of the intricate shareholdings across the Samsung group if he were to retain his grip.

It also came at a key juncture for the electronics giant's successions plans, just months after Lee's son Jay Y. Lee, 44, was promoted to vice chairman.

Samsung has come to symbolize the success of South Korea's "chaebol" conglomerates on the global stage, where it is battling Apple Inc and its Galaxy smartphone is outselling the iPhone.

A judge at the Seoul Central District Court ruled that Lee could retain more than $1 billion in Samsung Electronics shares and another $1 billion in shares of Samsung Life.

Samsung Everland, a small zoo operator, was also allowed to keep its $1 billion stake in Samsung Life. Lee will remain Samsung Life's biggest shareholder with a 20.76 percent stake.   Continued...

Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-Hee arrives at Gimpo airport in Seoul after he visited several European countries and Japan, May 24, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won