Lee laments airing clan’s dirty laundry

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Lee laments airing clan’s dirty laundry

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Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee made a public apology during a brief encounter with the press yesterday morning at Gimpo Airport as he left for a business trip to Spain.

A week after he issued an unusually strong verbal attack against his older brother Maeng-hee, who has filed a lawsuit demanding part of the fortune Kun-hee allegedly inherited from Samsung founder Lee Byung-chull, the 70-year-old owner of the nation’s top conglomerate showed a dramatic change of tone.

“I regret exposing my emotions concerning my personal affairs,” he told the reporters. “From now on, I will not interfere with lawsuit-related matters but will leave them to the experts. I intend to only concentrate on Samsung’s growth.”

Lee was embarking on a four-week tour of Europe to see if the ongoing economic crisis in the region is affecting Samsung’s operations there.

The chairman’s previous vitriolic remarks attracted international attention and dealt a blow to Samsung’s image, analysts say. The Financial Times, reporting on April 24 about the chronology of the family feud, wrote that the event “has done nothing for Lee’s own standing among the public.”

Meanwhile, sources from the Korean legal community say Lee’s lawyers claimed in a preparatory statement submitted to the Seoul Central District Court on Sunday that Kun-hee owns “not a single share in Samsung Electronics inherited from his father.” A preparatory statement is made prior to the court defense, which is scheduled for May 30.

In February, Maeng-hee raised a suit for 710 billion won ($630 million) worth of stocks in Samsung Electronics and Samsung Insurance that Kun-hee had allegedly inherited from their father.

The 2.25 million shares that Maeng-hee claims Kun-hee currently owns in Samsung Electronics are not the ones from the founder, the statement said. The Samsung shares Kun-hee had inherited were already converted into cash and his presently-held 2.25 million shares were bought separately. They were kept under a borrowed-name account until they were relocated to his account in 2009. This means the chairman’s siblings have no legal claim to ask for any portion of the shares, according to his lawyer.

Maeng-hee’s lawyers refuted the claim. “Lee claims he bought the shares with his own money, but the statement doesn’t mention when or at what cost,” they said.

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

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