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Samsung family says no disagreement over estate

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

The bereaved family of Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee is not at odds over who should get what from the late tycoon’s Samsung company shares, worth 19 trillion won ($17.06 billion) in total, officials at Samsung Electronics, the flagship unit of the conglomerate, said Wednesday.

The late Lee’s equity holdings have immense implications for the group’s ownership structure, influencing the Lee family’s continued grip over the colossal corporate empire, which alone accounts for roughly a fifth of the nation’s economy.

The biggest portion of the stocks to be inherited consists of a 20.76 percent stake in Samsung Life Insurance, which sits in the middle of an intragroup circular shareholding structure through which the Lees control over 50 companies, including the world’s No. 1 memory chip firm, Samsung Electronics.

“It is not that the bereaved family is in disagreement over the distribution of the shares. Details of the share transfers will be made public,” said an official at Samsung Electronics, which on Wednesday released the family’s statement about its plans for the estate.

In the statement Lee’s wife, Hong Ra-hee, and their three children, including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, announced that they would inherit some 20 trillion worth of the late tycoon’s personal wealth, paying nearly 12 trillion won in taxes. The rest, including thousands of artworks whose combined market value is estimated to be over 10 trillion won -- is to be donated.

While explaining the donation plans in detail, the family did not offer many details about what they planned to do with the shares. They just said changes in the family’s equity ownership status would be made public through the regulatory filings of the relevant companies.

The late Chairman Lee held 4.18 percent of Samsung Electronics, plus 0.08 percent of the firm’s preferred shares, 2.86 percent of Samsung C&T and 0.01 percent of Samsung SDS on top of his 20.76 percent stake in Samsung Life.

If Chairman Lee died without a will, under Korean law one-third of his wealth would go to his widow and his three children would each receive two-ninths. But it is unknown whether Lee had a will, and many analysts expect the family to decide on a different allocation so that his son can cement his control over the group.

The junior Lee, now in prison for bribery and embezzlement, holds 17.33 percent of Samsung C&T, the group’s de facto holding firm, through which he controls other strategically important units Samsung Life and Samsung Electronics. The young successor’s personal stake in each of the two firms is minimal at 0.06 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

By Lee Sun-young  (milaya@heraldcorp.com)
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