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Samsung nominates scion Lee Jae-yong to join its board of directors

Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong is thought to have been making key decisions since his father was hospitalized after a heart attack in 2014.
(Ahn Young-joon / Associated Press)

Samsung Electronics Co. Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, the only son of its ailing chairman, was nominated Monday to join its board of directors.

The announcement comes as the South Korean company grapples with a smartphone recall that has wiped out billions of dollars from its market value. Samsung recalled 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones this month after finding that rechargeable lithium batteries made by one of its suppliers were faulty and could burst into flames.

In announcing Lee’s nomination, the company said the Samsung board believes that “the time is now right.” Rather than waiting until the shareholder meeting next year, “his appointment now will allow him to more actively participate — and take formal responsibility — as a board member in important decisions such as the composition of the executive management team and strategic growth initiatives.”

The nomination signals a new era for Samsung under a third generation of its founding family.

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Lee, 48, a Harvard-educated Samsung vice chairman, is thought to have been making key decisions for Samsung since his father, Lee Kun-hee, 74, has been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack in 2014, leaving him unable to oversee the company.

The younger Lee made national headlines last year when he apologized on live TV for a Samsung-owned hospital’s failure to contain the spread of Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome. It was his public debut as Samsung’s de facto leader.

Samsung officials have said given the Confucian tradition of filial piety, it has been difficult for the younger Lee to take on a bigger leadership role while his father is still alive.

Lee’s nomination will be put to a shareholder vote Oct. 27.

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