Lee says ‘not a penny’ to sore siblings

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Lee says ‘not a penny’ to sore siblings

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Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee made it clear he has no intention of compromising with his siblings over inheritance disputes that are going to court, in his first official remarks on the issue yesterday.

“If they insist on proceeding with the lawsuit, I will sue [back] and go as far as not only the Supreme Court but also the Constitutional Court of Korea,” Lee told reporters in front of the Samsung headquarters in southern Seoul on his way to work yesterday morning. “I don’t want to give a penny.”

His comments come almost two months after Lee Maeng-hee, 81, Lee’s elder brother and the first son of the late Lee Byung-chull, founder of Samsung, demanded in a lawsuit that the Samsung chairman return 710 billion won ($623 million) worth of shares in Samsung Insurance and Samsung Electronics.

The older brother claims Kun-hee had the shares secretly incorporated into his assets through borrowed-name accounts.

Maeng-hee is father of current CJ Chairman Lee Jay-hyun. In March, five Samsung employees were questioned by police for alleged spying on the CJ Chairman.

Lee Byung-chull, who died in 1987, had three sons and five daughters. Kun-hee is the seventh child and third son. Sook-hee, the fourth child and second daughter, followed Maeng-hee’s suit, asking for 190 billion won, while some third-generation descendants have also joined the legal move.

Lee’s unusually adamant stance contradicted speculation that Samsung would choose to silently compromise and make the inheritance issue go away.

“The fortune was already evenly distributed during the former chairman’s term,” the 70-year-old Samsung Chairman said, “Respective siblings have obtained their own shares and the same is true of CJ. But they have become greedy because Samsung has grown too big.”

Perplexed by Lee’s unreserved remarks, Rhee In-yong, executive vice president of Samsung’s communications team, tried to soften the implications.

“We would like to stress that the chairman mentioning the Constitutional Court doesn’t mean he would truly want to go that far but he chose to emphasize he would never leave room for negotiation in the middle,” he said in a press briefing in the afternoon.

Following the news of Lee’s remarks, CJ Group said in a release, “We were disappointed that Lee made comments disparaging CJ without apologizing for the illegal surveillance of our chief.”

After CJ filed its suit, the five Samsung workers were questioned over alleged spying on the CJ Chairman, which was tied to the family feud.

A trial in Maeng-hee’s suit will be scheduled after Samsung Group submits answers to questions to the Seoul Central District Court on April 27. Analysts say the suit may take one to three years.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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