After fourth failed attempt at sale, Woori’s chief steps down

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After fourth failed attempt at sale, Woori’s chief steps down

Woori Bank President Lee Soon-woo stepped down Monday after the bank failed to find a buyer on its fourth attempt last Friday.

Lee Kwang-goo, the executive vice president of the bank’s consumer banking business unit, was nominated as his successor along with two others. However, it is speculated that Lee is the most likely to succeed.

In an e-mail sent to Woori Bank employees, the departing president said he was keeping the promise he made when he first took the position in 2013.

“I think now I have done all the duties that were given to me,” he wrote in the e-mail. “Now is time for me to keep the promise that I made when I was first inaugurated in the [Woori Financial Group] chair position.”

When Lee was nominated as chairman in May 2013, he emphasized that he would put priority on the successful privatization of the bank.

“I will step down once the privatization is complete,” he said at a press briefing in May 2013.

He said he would gladly give up his chairmanship if he became an obstacle in realizing the privatization.

Lee once again became president of Woori Bank after Woori Financial Group, the nation’s first financial holding company, was merged with its flagship bank in October.

Woori Bank once again failed to find a new buyer willing to purchase a 30 percent stake from the 56.97 percent of its shares owned by the government.

Although several bidders were reportedly interested, only one submitted a bid.

The Financial Services Commission has set a rule that the tender process can only proceed with two bids or more.

China’s Anbang Insurance Group was the only bidder. Kyobo Life Insurance, which was considered the most promising contender, pulled out at the last minute. Kyobo Life Insurance already owns one-third of Woori Bank’s share.

Lee was forced to take responsibility and there were doubts over him extending his term.

Lee sold off many of its affiliates, including two regional banks and its brokerage and insurance units, to encourage bids.

Lee Kwang-goo, nominated to be the new president, is also a long-time banker.

He started at the Commercial Bank of Korea in 1979 after graduating from Sogang University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He served as head of Woori Bank’s branch in Hong Kong and was vice president of management support.


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