Koo Ji-eun, vice president of LG Group’s catering unit Ourhome, on Monday was stripped of her position and was ordered to wait for further instructions in the chairman’s room.
The 48-year-old is the youngest daughter of Koo Cha-hak, chairman of Ourhome and son of the late LG Group founder Koo In-hoe. She joined the company in 2004 and was appointed as vice president in February. She had been a strong candidate for the presidency and possible future chairmanship.
Ji-eun’s sudden fall comes about a week after Ourhome president Kim Tae-joon was sacked just four months into his new job. Kim, who has also worked as a vice president of CJ Cheiljedang’s research department, was scouted by Koo.
Her father is rumored to have made all the decisions. The senior Koo has remained under the radar after appointing his own daughter to lead the company. But he came to the forefront during personnel restructuring.
“Ji-eun has been planning a wide range of restructuring in the organization, with the help of Kim Tae-joon and several other aides she had brought in from outside. This has caused resistance from old boys, and internal friction. And when the senior Koo learned that her ‘innovation’ could hurt morale, he lost it,” Hankyung TV quoted an insider as saying.
Ji-eun has been credited for leading the company’s success -- Ourhome posted 1.3 trillion won in sales ($1.1 billion) in 2014, a huge jump from 500 billion won in 2004. The company has opened its brand-cluster “Food Empire” at major shopping malls in Seoul and marked success.
The company has expanded its business portfolio from catering to restaurants, orchestrating around 50 brands. The company’s food ingredient wholesale department reached double-digit growth rates for two consecutive years, established a website for the food supply network, and opened a logistics center in South Jeolla Province. Her ambitious overseas expansion plan through the company’s first-ever halal-accredited food business has also made headlines.
However, insiders said Ji-eun has lately been struggling against falling sales in the dining sector due to the sluggish economy and fears of MERS. The halal food sector has also yet to bear tangible fruits.
Instead, she had appointed too many “outside experts” who have been causing a stir inside the company, according to the sources. The controversial consultancy contract with Noh Hee-young, former adviser of CJ Group, and her aides has heightened the tension. Noh has recently joined hands with entertainment firm YG Entertainment to launch a series of diners, which has not worked at the best interest for Koo Ji-eun, they said.
“Ji-eun is passionate, but perhaps too passionate. She would make comments that could easily embarrass people and hurt their feelings. And she is notorious for not listening to people. It kind of irks people. These factors don’t really go with the LG family’s ‘harmonizing’ philosophy,” an insider said. The Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that Koo’s older brother and Ourhome’s major shareholder Bon-sung might come to the limelight.
Still, speculators say the punishment won’t last long.
“Ji-eun is the only kin of the senior Koo interested in inheriting her father’s legacy. She is still in the learning stages of leadership and once she shows that she has learned, she will be back where she left off,” an observer said.
Ji-eun clearly expressed her anger.
“They have won. Had they worked as passionately as they have tried to backstab others, Ourhome would have been seven years ahead in the market,” Koo wrote on her Facebook page.
“Now it’s 12 years behind. I don’t even want to think about falling behind our competitors. Sabbath in 11 years, thank you,” she said.
Ourhome confirmed Koo’s resignation but refused to comment further.
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com