The Korea Herald


Lee tapped to serve 2nd term as Woori chief

By 황장진

Published : Feb. 15, 2011 - 19:33

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Woori Finance Holdings Co., Korea’s No. 2 financial services company, on Tuesday nominated its incumbent chairman to remain at the helm, which analysts say will help accelerate the stalled privatization of the state-run banking group.

The group’s ad hoc chairman selection committee chose incumbent Woori Finance Chairman Lee Pal-seung, 67, as the new chairman nominee, allowing him to serve another three-year term. Lee’s current three-year stint ends in late March.

The committee, which drew four candidates last week for the top post, held interviews Monday with the final two prospective candidates and selected Lee as chairman nominee earlier than scheduled amid suspension of the sale of the group.

“Lee received high marks for his management ability and communication skills. The committee, in particular, viewed Lee as the most qualified person to push for the privatization of the group,” Oh Jong-nam, head of the committee, told reporters. 
Lee Pal-seung Lee Pal-seung

The board of directors plans to gather on March 4 to endorse the nomination before shareholders give the final nod at an annual meeting on March 25.

If Lee receives approval from shareholders, he would become the first chairman of Woori Finance to serve a second straight term since the financial group was established in 2001.

The nomination comes at a critical time as the much-anticipated sale of Woori Finance has been suspended due to bid withdrawals from strong candidates.

The government is planning to resume its stalled sale of a

56.97 percent stake in the group, valued at about $6 billion, but the specific timetable and sale criteria have yet to be decided.

Korea injected 12.8 trillion won ($10.9 billion) in taxpayers’ money into Woori Finance in a bid to rescue the company from near bankruptcy in the aftermath of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Lee has said he will make efforts to help revive the privatization process of the group and make Woori Finance one of the world’s 50 largest financial institutions if he is allowed to serve another term.

On Monday, Woori’s rival Shinhan Financial Group Co. nominated Han Dong-woo, a former vice chairman of the group’s life insurance unit Shinhan Life Insurance as its new chairman, heralding an end to a three-month managerial vacuum. (Yonhap News)