Samsung replaces all CEOs in shake-up

Samsung replaces all CEOs in shake-up
Samsung Electronics’ two new CEOs — Han Jong-hee (left), vice chairman and CEO of the consumer business division, and Kyung Kye-hyun, president and CEO of the semiconductor business division. (Samsung Electronics)Samsung Electronics has replaced all CEOs and combined its mobile and home appliance business divisions, in its biggest management shake-up since 2017 announced Tuesday.

While its crosstown rivals such as LG and SK opted for stability rather than drastic changes in their recent year-end executive reshuffles, Samsung, the nation’s largest tech giant, made a sizeable shake-up in its top leadership, laying the groundwork for its de facto leader Lee Jae-yong’s vision for “New Samsung.”

Among other things, the long-held three co-CEO system has been ditched, with the two separate consumer business divisions being merged to the SET division.

Under a revamped two co-CEO system, Han Jong-hee, an expert in TV research and development, is stepping in to lead the merged consumer business division, and Kyung Kye-hyun, former Samsung Electro-Mechanics CEO, will oversee the company’s burgeoning chip business division, called device solutions or DS division.

Han is known to have played a key role in bringing Samsung’s TV business to the top position. Samsung said the new CEO is expected to “strengthen the synergies among the different businesses in the SET division and help drive new businesses and technologies.”

Kyung is a semiconductor design expert who led the company’s flash product and technology team. Samsung said he is expected to “help maintain the company’s semiconductor leadership and lead innovation in the components business.”

“Even though smartphone and home appliance businesses may have made up a greater portion of the company’s sales, it is true that more recently the spotlight has been shed to the burgeoning chip business due to its growth potential and better profitability,” said an industry source on condition of anonymity.

“With a TV specialist taking the helm, Samsung is expected to make a renewed push to consolidate its consumer business in this era of technology convergence across sectors and industries.”

The reshuffle in the co-CEO system came as a surprise because speculation was running high that the current three CEOs would retain their jobs considering they were renamed for another three-year term at a shareholder meeting in March. The trio has led the company’s core businesses since 2017.

While two CEOs – Koh Dong-jin of the mobile business division and Kim Hyun-seok of the home appliance division – effectively departed the company, Kim Ki-nam, the semiconductor business chief who was promoted to chairman, is also stepping away from management to lead Samsung Advanced Institute Technology and nurture future technologies and in-house talents.

Unlike speculation, Vice Chairman Lee also did not get promoted to chairman as he still faces employment restrictions because he was released on parole. He also stands trial on charges of fraud and stock manipulation. But he has claimed his innocence.

In reflection of the company’s renewed semiconductor push, many of the new promotions, including the CFO, North American business chief and logic chip business chief, came from the chip business division.

The latest reshuffle is also a first leadership shake-up since Vice Chairman Lee returned to management in August after serving prison time for corruption. Upon his return, the Samsung chief stressed his vision for “New Samsung” putting renewed emphasis on the company’s chip business.

“Not to mention the ongoing trials, earning the chairman position is not a top priority for Lee,” said another source who wished to be unnamed. “The Samsung chief is expected to focus on rebuilding his global network and consolidating the company’s leadership in key sectors for the time being.”

The larger-than-expected leadership changes at Samsung came a day after Lee left for the United Arab Emirates, just weeks after one to the US where he finalized the company’s $17 billion fabless plant deal.

In his first visit to the Middle East in more than two years, he is likely to hold a series of meetings with political and business leaders there. The Middle East is one of the key markets where Samsung is pouring in resources to nurture new growth engine businesses, including equipment business for the 5G network.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)

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