CJ’s Lee climbs up Forbes richest list

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CJ’s Lee climbs up Forbes richest list


It came as no surprise that Lee Kun-hee, Samsung Group chairman, still tops the list of wealthiest people in Korea followed by Chung Mong-koo, Hyundai-Kia Motor Group chairman. But there was a surprise on this year’s list by Forbes magazine of the wealthiest 50 Koreans: Lee Jay-hyun, CJ Group chairman and nephew of Samsung’s Lee, ranked number 10 after his wealth surged 70 percent on-year thanks to the increasing popularity of Korean entertainment, including K-pop and movies.

The list of the 50 wealthiest Koreans will be printed in the May editions of Forbes Asia and Forbes Korea.

According to Forbes, Samsung’s Lee has been on top of the list since it was first compiled in 2005. As of April 15, Lee’s net worth was $12.6 billion, up from $10.8 billion a year ago, the magazine estimated.

Lee’s total wealth included the $1.5 billion worth of his wife Hong Ra-hee, director of Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.

Lee’s wealth grew largely because of the increased value of Samsung Electronics, the flagship of the nation’s largest conglomerate, which Lee and his wife own 4.12 percent in stakes. On April 15, a share in Samsung Electronics was worth 1.52 million won ($1,358), up 21 percent from a year ago.

The smartphone and computer chip maker in the first quarter of this year sold 70 million cellphones, making it the leader in the industry.

Hyundai-Kia Motor Group’s Chung was second on the list with net worth of $5.4 billion. Although the automotive giant has thrived in terms of its business and has become the world’s fifth-largest automaker, Chung’s net worth shrunk $1.2 billion from a year earlier because the company’s stock has recently dropped. A share in Hyundai-Kia Motor Group as of April 15 was worth 193,000 won, down 27 percent from a year earlier.

Jay Y. Lee, the apparent heir and only son of Samsung’s Lee, ranked third on the list with a fortune estimated at $4.2 billion.

CJ Group Chairman Lee saw the biggest increase in wealth this year as his net worth increased to $1.7 billion, putting him 10th on the list. Lee jumped 12 ranks from last year’s 22nd.

Lee owns 42.3 percent of CJ shares, which surged 78 percent in value from a year earlier thanks to the rising popularity of Korean entertainment industry both at home and abroad. CJ Group, which traditionally specialized in food ingredients and retail, has aggressively turned itself into an entertainment giant.

In contrast, Kim Jung-ju, founder and owner of the nation’s largest game company Nexon, saw the sharpest fall in his net worth as it plunged from $4.3 billion last year to $1.6 billion. Kim, who ranked third on the list last year, fell to 11th.

Kim suffered a major paper loss when Nexon’s shares fell since the second half of last year.

The list compiled information obtained through families, individuals, stock exchanges, analysts and private databases.

By Lee Ho-jeong [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]
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