NEW YORK (
Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee suffered an apparent heart attack over the weekend. After undergoing surgery, the 72-year old businessman is said to be in stable condition and resting comfortably in the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea.
Lee began running Samsung more than 25 years ago and has grown the company into his country's largest conglomerate. The brand produces everything from washing machines and refrigerators to computers and flat-screen TVs. Samsung is currently the leading maker of smartphones and semiconductors on the planet.
Despite recent, bitterly fought, high-profile patent lawsuits with Apple (AAPL) in the United States, Samsung also was the leading supplier of tablet displays to Apple in the first quarter of 2014. according to a report from ZDnet Korea.
The Samsung (English translation is "Three Stars") conglomerate reportedly employs as many as 200,000 people in its wholly owned and affiliated businesses. It is South Korea's largest company when measured by capitalization. It is currently in the process of building the world's largest smartphone manufacturing plant in Vietnam.
The business was founded as a trading company by Lee's father in 1938. Lee's son (the founder's grandson), 45-year old Lee Jae-yong (a.k.a. Jay Y. Lee) is currently Samsung Electronics' vice chairman. He is expected to ascend to the top job upon his father's retirement. The younger Lee has been the face of the company, having served as Samsung's chief operating officer for many years. He's fluent in English and Japanese.
Chairman Lee's health has been a major concern for awhile. Last summer he had to be hospitalized with pneumonia. He also battled lung cancer in the 1990s. Questions remain about whether he feels his son is ready to take over the family business.
In recent years, the elder Lee has pulled back from running the day-to-day operations of the company (actually run by three co-executives), but reportedly still wields great power including final say over key decisions.
AFP quoted Samsung as saying Lee is resting comfortably and that there has been "no disruption in the company's day-to-day operation."
Shares in Samsung Electronics gained nearly 4% in South Korea on Monday.
- - Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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