Samsung Electronics keeps chairmanship vacant in modest reshuffle

FILE PHOTO: Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman, Jay Y. Lee, speaks during a news conference at a company’s office building in Seoul, South Korea, May 6, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Pool

(Reuters) – Electronics giant Samsung Electronics announced a small reshuffle of senior executives on Wednesday without replacing its recently deceased chairman or changing top leadership positions including that of vice chairman Jay Y. Lee.

Heir apparent Lee, whose father and Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee passed away in October, is currently facing two separate trials that analysts say could land him in jail for a second time.

With the trials’ uncertain outcomes hanging over Lee, Samsung is seen taking its time before making big changes in leadership positions such as Lee rising to fill the vacant chairmanship, analysts said.

“Practically he has been at the helm of the company for six years, since his father was hospitalised in 2014,” said Park Sang-in, a professor at Seoul National University, adding that business conditions for Samsung were good and there was little need to change leadership.

“At least one of the trials will have to end before Lee may change position or cast a new vision for the company.”

Current co-CEOs Kim Ki-nam, head of device solutions, Kim Hyun-suk, head of consumer electronics, and Koh Dong-jin, head of IT & mobile communications, retain their positions, Samsung said in a statement.

Lee Jae-seung, head of digital appliance business, Lee Jung-bae, head of memory business and Choi Si-young, head of foundry business, were promoted to president.

Of the trials Jay Y. Lee is a defendant in, one concerns the 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates that helped Lee assume greater control of Samsung Electronics. The other relates to his role in a bribery scandal that led to the impeachment of a former South Korean president, and for which he has previously been jailed for a year.

The latter trial in the Seoul High Court is expected to hold its final hearing this month.