Lee Jae-yong, only son of the late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, has played a central role in leading the conglomerate since late 2013.
The vice chairman had been preparing to take on formal leadership of the group even before his father collapsed in May 2014, representing Samsung on major political occasions.
Lee greeted former President Park Geun-hye in June 2013, when Park visited Samsung’s semiconductor plant in Xian, China.
The greeting was interpreted as confirmation that Lee would succeed his father as the next leader of Samsung.
In April 2014 the vice chairman, on behalf of Samsung, attended a meeting in Seoul hosted by former US President Barack Obama.
Ever since the chairman had a heart attack in May 2014, leaving him bedridden, his son’s role grew in significance year by year.
“The vice chairman has been the final decision maker of the group’s organizational and business restructuring since 2014,” a Samsung official said.
Lee cemented his position as the de facto leader of the conglomerate by taking part in major business deals, too.
The heir announced at the Boao Forum in April 2014 that biopharmaceuticals would be Samsung’s next-generation business area, and in December of the same year he made an 850 billion won investment in construction of Samsung Biologics’ third plant.
In 2016, Lee led the 9 trillion won acquisition of US car infotainment business Harman.
Last year, to mark the 50th anniversary of Samsung’s founding, Lee announced the company’s new vision “Accompany” through an internal message to its employees, and outlined his efforts to seek new growth engines.
“Artificial intelligence, system-on-chips, 5G and automotive parts businesses are new businesses that would make up a new Samsung under Lee Jae-yong,” an industry official explained.
Last year, Lee announced a 133 trillion won investment plan for the logic chip business for the next 10 years.
To take over the leadership of the Samsung empire, Lee has built a solid global network.
As a member of the Business Council, a confidential club of CEOs at global companies like GM, Goldman Sachs, Coca-Cola and Boeing, Lee stays in touch with key business figures around the world.
In recent years, he has maintained that global network by meeting with Larry Page of Google, Bill Gates of Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.
The heir, who studied at Keio University, also has a strong network in Japan.
Lee flew to Tokyo to seek cooperation from major Japanese business partners in securing chip materials after the Japanese government restricted their export to South Korea.
After returning on Friday from Vietnam, where he discussed possible new investments in the country with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Lee hinted at visiting Japan soon to meet customers.
By Song Su-hyun (email@example.com