Samsung’s de facto leader will be a tad emboldened

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee bows as he leaves a court in Seoul, South Korea, August 12, 2022. Yonhap via REUTERS

HONG KONG, Aug 12 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) scion Jay Y. Lee has won a presidential pardon, signaling the beginning of the end of a governance mess at the $310 billion conglomerate read more . It may encourage the South Korean tycoon to some bold dealmaking.

It is a small but significant change for the world's largest memory chipmaker. Its de facto decision maker has been on parole since last year after serving some 18 months in prison for bribery and other charges. The pardon removes certain work restrictions, including employment and travel curbs. Lee, who still holds a vice chairman title despite stepping down from Samsung's board in 2020, may now be able to have an official executive role.

The free pass also removes an unnecessary distraction from Samsung’s daunting to-do list. While Lee’s legal scandals have played out, Samsung has fallen behind peers in new technologies like autonomous driving read more . Deteriorating U.S.-China ties also require a delicate balancing act from a company with customers in both countries.

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Lee remains on trial for separate accounting fraud and stock manipulation charges, which he has denied, but investors can take comfort from the light at the end of the tunnel. (By Robyn Mak)

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

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Editing by Una Galani and Pranav Kiran

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