* Samsung heir Jay Lee moves closer to the top job
* Move comes as Samsung Electronics stock close to record
* Global legal battle with Apple still looms
By Miyoung Kim
SEOUL, Dec 5 Samsung Electronics Co
pushed the anointed heir of the company chairman closer to the
top job on Wednesday as it cemented a global lead in smartphones
with a stock price that is close to record highs.
The promotion of the snappily-dressed and bespectacled Jay
Y. Lee, aged 44, to the job of vice chairman comes after Samsung
marked the 25th anniversary of his father Lee Kun-hee's
chairmanship last week.
"It is a stamp of approval from the chairman that the vice
chairman has shown capability to manage Samsung. It's a major
step forward (for Jay Lee to become) the future successor at
Samsung," a Samsung executive familiar with the matter said.
Jay Lee is already chief operating officer and president and
was thrust into the spotlight in June when then Samsung
Electronics chief executive Choi Gee-sung, known to be his
mentor, was promoted to lead the entire Samsung group's
strategy, a defacto No.2 role within the group to chairman Lee.
Observers said at the time that Choi's move was aimed at
preparing a succession plan for Jay Lee.
"As Vice Chairman, Lee will build on his existing
responsibilities and take a broader role in managing Samsung
Electronics' businesses," Samsung said in a statement.
"Lee will continue to play a critical role in transforming
Samsung's business model - the set (product) business into one
based on a platform and the component business into a total
FROM SMALL TRADING COMPANY TO TECH GIANT
Samsung Group was founded in 1938 by Lee
Byung-chull, Jay Lee's grandfather, as a small trading company
and Samsung Electronics which is the jewel in the crown of its
vast industrial empire now sells more televisions, memory chips,
flat screens and mobile telephones than any other company.
Samsung Electronics alone is worth $195 billion based on
Tuesday's closing share price.
Jay Lee will have big shoes to fill as it was under his
father's watch that Samsung Electronics was transformed from a
low cost producer into a global player that has overtaken Apple
Inc in terms of smartphone sales.
The annual Samsung reshuffle of top management, of which Jay
Lee's promotion is a part, comes as South Korean chaebols, or
big business groups, are under pressure to reform amid growing
anger over their dominance in an economy where wealth gaps are
The issue of family succession is viewed as a key marker of
transparency and presidential candidates from the ruling and
opposition parties have pledged 'economic democratisation' in a
bid to rein in chaebols' growing economic prowess.
"I think JY Lee's promotion means that he has somewhat
proved himself worthy of following in his father's footsteps,"
said a fund manager at foreign fund based in Seoul who owns 2
million shares in Samsung Electronics.
"However, because of the political climate that is bent on
economic democratization which frowns on the cross-shareholding
structure, it would be better if the company were to be
sensitive to minority and outside voices," said the fund manager
who could not be named due to his company's media policy.
While Jay Lee steers clear of the limelight when his father
appears in public, he has become the first point of contact at
Samsung for many key customers and competitors.
Jay Lee has met Apple's chief executive Tim Cook as well as
political leaders from China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.
Critics say he lacks his father's charisma, business insight
and entrepreneurship and that he faces tough challenges, not
least a patent battle with Apple that is being fought out in
courts across the globe.
Lee has a degree in East Asian history from Seoul National
University, an MBA from Keio University in Japan and also
attended the doctoral programme at Harvard Business School. He
has two children and went through one of Korea's highest profile