Jay Y. Lee taking on a wider role

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Jay Y. Lee taking on a wider role

Samsung empire heir-apparent Jay Y. Lee is assuming a bigger role in his father’s absence and has recently been busy increasing his cooperation with major business partners.

However, the nation’s leading conglomerate has been downplaying the extensive role that junior Lee has been taking on, although it has acknowledged the meetings have been held. Local media reported on Monday that Lee met with CEOs of financial companies from China and Japan in Seoul. He invited the financiers to Seungjiwon, a private guesthouse and workspace in Itaewon owned by the Lee family.

Seungjiwon is significant to the Lee family because Chairman Lee Kun-hee remodeled the estate, which was previously the residence of his father and the conglomerate’s founder, Lee Byung-chull, in 1988 and turned it into his guesthouse and private office. It is considered a mecca for Samsung’s management and only high-ranking guests such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and GE Chairman Jeff Immelt have been invited there. Sometimes top Samsung management hold discreet strategy meetings there.

Details of Lee’s meetings at Seungjiwon this week were not revealed. But it has raised interest in the business community, especially since it took place when rival Apple and other IT companies such as Alibaba have been expanding their business into mobile financial services such as Apple Pay.

Samsung acknowledged that Lee had dinner with the financial CEOs, but downplayed it by saying that it was not the first time he had arranged a dinner meeting there.

Earlier this month, Lee also met with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg at Samsung Electronics’ headquarters in Gangnam District. No details of that meeting have been disclosed, but Facebook has recently been found of developing a mobile payment system that would allow users to make purchases via its messenger app.

And the junior Lee’s business interests do not appear to be limited to IT and convergence with finance, as he has also been meeting foreign CEOs from energy businesses, including Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart and Germany’s Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser.

It was reported that Lee boarded a cruise ship docked in Incheon on Oct. 15 to meet with Rinehart, a day after he met Zuckerberg.

Last week he met with Kaeser and the two reportedly discussed a business partnership on renewable energy involving Siemens’ wind power plant in Ontario, Canada, and its thermal power plant in Singapore.

The construction unit of the Samsung conglomerate, Samsung C&T, is currently collaborating with the German company, which specializes in turbines for wind and thermal plants.

Other indicators also point to preparations for the succession of junior Lee.

Samsung Life Insurance and its nonlife insurance firm Samsung Fire and Marine Insurance saw their stock prices rise more than 1 percent yesterday after news hit early in the day that Lee was planning to increase his holdings in both companies, further cementing his control of the financial unit and the conglomerate.

Lee reportedly requested that the Financial Supervisory Service review the legality of increasing his stake by 0.1 percent in both insurers.

The payment for the additional stock purchases of both companies is estimated to be 25.2 billion won, which he made when selling the 7.7 percent he had in Samsung Asset Management in May.

Samsung, however, said the additional purchase of the insurance companies’ stock is not related to Lee taking over from his father because it only amounts to 0.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the date on Samsung SDS’ IPO has been set for Nov. 14.

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

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