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Samsung’s new mantra is slim

After smartphone squeeze, reshuffles and layoffs are new normal

Dec 05,2014
After 17 years of basking in the warmth of success, Samsung Electronics’ smartphone division is feeling the cold wind of layoffs and a major reshuffling.

The moves come at a time when the heir apparent for Samsung Group, Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, accelerates his reorganization of the conglomerate. Since his father, Chairman Lee Kun-hee, was laid low by a heart attack in May, the son has sold several affiliates and has become the public face of the brand, meeting with top executives of global companies such as Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and world leaders like Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Samsung announced on Thursday its fewest executive promotions in recent years. Last year, when its flagship Samsung Electronics reached a historic milestone of becoming the first Korean company to achieve 10 trillion won ($8.9 billion) in operating profit, it promoted 476 people.

The number announced yesterday was 353.

The change was even more obvious at Samsung Electronics. Last year, the company promoted 227 executives. This year, as profits fell precipitously, the figure dropped to 165.

Last year, 161 people reached the executive ranks for the first time, the largest number in the company’s history. This year, the figure retreated to 110.

In a statement, Samsung Group stressed that its promotions are based on performance and that this year’s promotions were designed to boost the organization’s dynamism by raising the status of women and foreign executives within the organization.

India-born Pranav Mistry, 33, who heads Samsung Electronics’ think tank in Silicon Valley, was included in the promotions.

Another factor that stood out in Thursday’s announcement was that other than president-level executives, the average age of the promoted workers has gotten younger. The current executives’ average age is 47. The average age of the newly promoted executives, including those promoted for the first time, is 46.7.

Vice Chairman Lee is 46.

The JoongAng Ilbo reported Thursday that Samsung Electronics is in the middle of a major restructuring of its mobile communication division, which is responsible for smartphones. The newspaper reported that 25 percent of its 205 executives are being reshuffled after the smartphone business performed badly this year.

Some 50 people are either being sacked, repositioned as advisers, encouraged to take a leave of absence or reassigned to other affiliates.

Three out of five presidents will be leaving the company. This includes Lee Chul-hwan, president of the mobile communication department in charge of smartphone development; Lee Don-joo, president in charge of strategic marketing; and Kim Jae-kwon, who is in charge of global management.

J.K. Shin, the president in charge of the IT and mobile communication division, and Kim Jong-ho, who heads the global production centers, are off the hook and will remain in their current roles.

The reshuffling will also include five executive vice presidents and 10 senior vice presidents.

BY LEE HO-JEONG ojlee82@joongang.co.kr







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