Deceased Samsung Chairman's Estate Donates Money and Artwork While Consolidating Family Control

Lee Kun-hee's family divided his stock holdings to consolidate corporate control for his son Lee Jae-yong.

Deceased Samsung Chairman's Estate Donates Money and Artwork While Consolidating Family Control

Photo: Inwangjesaekdo (Scene of Inwang Mountain After Rain) by Jeong Seon, part of Lee Kun-hee's art collection.  Credit: Public domain.

The family of Lee Kun-hee 이건희, former chairman of the Samsung Group 삼성그룹 who passed away in October 2020, announced their plan on April 28 to pay the record-breaking KRW 12t (USD 10b) estate tax bill for the deceased magnate. (See previous coverage, “Can’t Take it With You.”) In addition to paying out taxes, Lee’s estate donated KRW 1t (USD 850m) to the National Medical Center 국립중앙의료원 and the Seoul National University Hospital 서울대학병원 for new facilities dedicated to infectious diseases and childhood cancer. The estate is also donating 23k pieces of valuable artwork, including works by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali as well as those by traditional and modern masters of Korean art such as Jeong Seon 정선 and Yi Jung-seob 이중섭. The artwork will be donated to various public museums around the country, including the National Museum of Modern Art 국립현대미술관.

Lee Kun-hee died without a will; his estate included a 4.18% stake in Samsung Electronics 삼성전자, a 20.76% stake in Samsung Life Insurance 삼성생명, and a 2.88% stake in Samsung C&T 삼성물산. Reportedly, the Lee family structured the inheritance so that the eldest son Lee Jae-yong 이재용 will hold the management rights of the Samsung Group while each family member - which includes Lee Kun-hee’s wife Hong Ra-hee 홍라희 and two daughters Lee Bu-jin 이부진 and Lee Seo-jin 이서진 - received an equal share of wealth. To that end, Lee Jae-yong took the lion’s share of Lee Kun-hee’s stake in Samsung Life Insurance 삼성생명, the key link in Samsung Group’s control, while the remaining shares (including the shares in Samsung Electronics, which have the highest monetary value) were distributed equally based on the statutory formula. As a result, Lee Jae-yong will hold a 10.44% stake in Samsung Life Insurance, making him the largest individual shareholder of the company and second largest behind Samsung C&T, which Lee Jae-yong also controls as the largest individual shareholder.

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