By Mukwuzi Joseph
Samsung Electronics Co. said in a statement that its chairman, Lee Kun-hee, died Sunday. He was 78.
No cause of death was given by the company, but Lee had been incapacitated since suffering a heart attack in 2014.
“All of us at Samsung will cherish his memory and are grateful for the journey we shared with him,” the company said in a statement.
The Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who transformed a second-tier electronics parts maker into the world’s biggest manufacturer of smartphones and televisions, died Sunday after lying incapacitated in a hospital for more than half a decade.
Mr. Lee, who at the time of his death remained chairman of Samsung, had been hospitalized since May 2014 after a heart attack. He already had been in fragile health and was treated for lung cancer in the late 1990s.
During his more than three decades at the helm of Samsung, South Korea’s biggest conglomerate in which Samsung Electronics Co. is the crown jewel, Mr. Lee transformed the company into a global brand beyond South Korea where it sells everything from life insurance to roller-coaster rides. By almost every measure, he exceeded expectations, pushing the company to the global No. 1 position in televisions, smartphones and memory chips.
Mr. Lee, whose father founded Samsung, became chairman in 1987. He sought to boost Samsung’s brand through the Olympics, with the company becoming a top-tier sponsor and Mr. Lee serving as an International Olympic Committee member. In 2009, South Korea’s president pardoned Mr. Lee, imploring him help land the 2018 winter Olympics for the country. It worked.