Reshuffle reinforces the status of Jay Y. Lee

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Reshuffle reinforces the status of Jay Y. Lee

At 9 a.m. Saturday, Choi Gee-sung, head of Samsung Group’s de facto control tower, the Future Strategy Office, entered the group’s headquarters in Seocho District, southern Seoul.

It is not unusual for Choi to visit the office on a Saturday, but it was rare that two vice presidents - Chung Hyun-ho from the human resources support team and Park Hak-gyu, in charge of business inspection team - were also there.

They reportedly made final adjustments to Samsung Group’s top executive reshuffle plan for next year on that day in order to get final approval from Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and group heir-apparent Jay Y. Lee.

Lee, who came back from a business trip to Japan, was reportedly briefed on the reshuffle plan for more than an hour in his office before signing it.

Samsung Group insiders said the president-level reshuffle that was announced on Monday was planned more delicately and carefully than in the past.

What seems to be certain from the reshuffle is that Samsung Group is slowly paving the way for the successful ownership transition of Lee. As an example, presidents in Samsung Group got slightly younger, from an average age of 54.3 to 53.7. Lee is 46.

Industry insiders say the key to Monday’s reshuffle is that not only business division leaders in Samsung Electronics survived but also members of the Future Strategy Office.

Choi, who has led the office since June 2012, is considered the executive closest to the Lee family. Chang Choong-ki, deputy head of the office, and Kim Jong-joong, leader of the Strategy 1 team, also retained their positions.

“The group’s business restructuring and shift to the post-Chairman Lee Kun-hee era is all prepared by the Future Strategy Office,” said a high-ranking official of the group.

“With key members not leaving, it seems that the role of Future Strategy Office will become more important.”

In addition to maintaining Future Strategy Office key members, industry observers are also eyeing the movement of Samsung Engineering President Kim Jae-youl, who will be going to Cheil Worldwide.

Some people argue that moving Kim, who is the husband of Lee Kun-hee’s second daughter, Lee Seo-hyun, is the result of the company trying to boost sports marketing.

Others see the move as a signal that Jay Y. Lee wants to make it clear that the construction industry is in his business portfolio, avoiding possible conflicts with his sisters.

Most local analysts’ post-Lee Kun-hee scenarios have Jay Y. Lee taking the group’s electronic, financial and construction units, with Lee Boo-jin taking the hotel and trading businesses and Lee Seo-hyun getting the fashion and media communication affiliates.

“Before going to the Jay Y. Lee era, Samsung is pursuing both management succession and boosting efficiency in its business,” said Korea Investment & Securities analyst Yoon Tae-ho.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON, CHOI JOON-HO [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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